Latvia and NATO
Shortly after regaining of the independence of Latvia, development of the Latvian defence system was launched and collaboration with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was initiated. When reacting to the new security environment and the geo-political situation, on 20 December 1991, NATO founded the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) to collaborate with potential partners. Latvia also participated in the NACC foundation session, thus becoming a Member State of the forum.
In subsequent years, cooperation of Latvia with NATO became even more intense. In 1994, Latvia joined the programme “Partnership for Peace” established in the same year, which gave the possibility to take advantage of consultations of NATO civil and military specialists, their support and practical assistance in development of the defence system. In 1995, the participation in the “Partnership for Peace” programme also allowed Latvia to get involved in the NATO Planning and Review Process that, in subsequent years, facilitated compliance of the Latvian National Armed Forces with those of NATO Member States.
On 23―25 April 1999, at the NATO summit meeting in Washington, USA, NATO suggested Latvia and the other eight candidate states  to elaborate a Member Action Plan (MAP) for participation in NATO by reflecting the entire preparatory process and measures for the participation in NATO therein. MAP would permit the states to receive additional consultations, support and practical assistance from NATO Member States. On 21 November 2002, at the meeting of NATO Heads of state in Prague, Czech Republic, Latvia and six other candidate states were invited to join NATO. This marked the beginning of the last stage for Latvia for becoming a NATO Member State, which took place on 29 March 2004.  Primary interests of Latvia in respect to its participation in NATO are related with the fact that the Alliance is an effective and capacitated organization able to protect its Member States and fight against modern threats and deal with challenges. Nowadays, the main threats to security of Member States of the Alliance are terrorism, proliferation of mass destruction weapons, threats of cyber-crimes, as well as formation of crisis situations in different regions of world.  Although traditional threats are not likely to occur, such possibility is never excluded.
During the former NATO transformation process, in the framework of which allied forces are adapted to reacting to all kinds of threats, NATO Member States have set forth the development of NATO Response Force as one of their priorities. This Force is regarded as an effective measure for both, assuring collective defence and tackle modern security challenges.
Latvia has also got involved in the transformation process of NATO by participating in strengthening of NATO capacities and international operations, as well as security sustaining measures executed by the Alliance. In the framework of this process, Latvia has managed to form professional armed forces that comply with modern security requirements and are able to participate in collective defence and crisis prevention measures.
Along with transformation of international security environment, international operations for stabilisation of regions that could present considerable challenges to the security of the allied have become one of the main peace maintenance tasks of NATO. Since 1996, when Latvian soldiers first participated in operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina managed by NATO, Latvia has got involved in all NATO operations in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan.  In the international mission in Afghanistan led by NATO , Latvia participated by means of contingent of armed forces, whilst civil experts of Latvia were involved in the Afghanistan reconstruction and stabilization process. Participation in international operations permits testing in practice the compatibility of the Latvian National Armed Forces with those of other Member States and obtain working experience, which is indispensable for professional soldiers. Meanwhile, such practical involvement of Latvia in operations lead by NATO merits increasing effectiveness of operations and maximize the political influence of Latvia in NATO decision-making process.
The Latvian National Armed Forces should be ready not only to participate in international operations, but also to receive NATO forces in the territory of Latvia. For it to receive the necessary foreign assistance in case of threat to the state or a natural disaster, Latvia as a receiving country continues elaborating the support system for foreign armed forces and therefore it develops the required skills. Such cooperation between Latvia and NATO accompanied by a combination of necessary skills serves as a good basis for security and defence of the country.
Patrol in airspace of Latvia and other Baltic States was one of the first practical and visible factors that increased our security after the admission to NATO. Air patrol operations also serve as a direct evidence for willingness of other NATO Member States to provide their support to Latvia because countries apply for the operation on voluntary basis. Patrol rotation procedure is ensured by NATO Member States, and the airfield in Siauliai, Lithuania, is used as an airbase for their aircrafts. Gradually, the Baltic States undertake a greater responsibility for implementation of the operation thus ensuring even greater support capacity as receiving countries. Therefore, Latvia has built the Air Operations Centre and continues development of infrastructure at the Lielvārde military airfield.
Consequently, Latvia has the opportunity to participate in common NATO projects where Member States unite to ensure certain capacity by assuring the most rational use of financial and human resources.
Latvia has comprehensively participated in NATO decision-making and consultation process that ensures representation of Latvia’s interests in NATO structures, as well as in decision-making process. To ensure a complete protection of Latvia’s interests, representatives from the Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Latvian National Armed Forces and other institutions work in NATO representation.
Together with other Member States of the Alliance, Latvia continues developing its cooperation with NATO partners. Latvia is interested in powerful partner states and is ready to contribute by providing its assistance and exchanging experience on reforms of the security sector and strengthening of the defence system. By transferring its experience since 2004, Latvia has founded cooperation with Ukraine, Moldova, South Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Balkan States.
From July 2011 to July 2012, Latvia fulfils the functions of a co-chairmanship of NATO Non-Proliferation Committee, jurisdiction of which covers issues on non-proliferation of mass destruction weapons.
1 Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
2 Protocol on Accession of Latvia to the North Atlantic Treaty http://www.am.gov.lv/lv/dp/pamatdokumenti/protokols/
3 Information on threats to security of Member States of the Alliance in the new strategic concept
4 In total, Latvia has participated in two NATO operations in the Balkans ― (1) from 1996 to 2004 ― NATO Stabilisation Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina (SFOR); (2) from 2000 to autumn 2009 ― Kosovo Force, (KFOR); (3) Latvia has provided material and financial support to NATO training mission in Iraq, NTM-I in 2005 and 2006, as well as, since 2003, it participates (4) in NATO International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan (ISAF).
5 Information on NATO in Afghanistan www.isaf.nato.int/news/index/php