Defense Minister goes on the offensive over mechanization contract

Latvia's Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis (Greens and Farmers Union party) on Wednesday gave a scathing response to an opposition MP who is demanding an inquiry in to the cost of a major defense contract.

In a blistering rebuttal of claims by Harmony party deputy Andriejs Elksnins that Latvia is paying too much for 123 armored military vehicles from the United Kingdom, Bergmanis accused his opponent of "spreading lies" and said the terms of the contract between Latvia and the UK "eliminates the risk of corruption." 

The open letter, originally published on the Delfi web portal and also supplied to LSM by the Ministry of Defense is forthright to say the least, with Bergmanis blasting his parliamentary rival from the outset, declaring: "To lie is low, and sooner or later all lies come to light, Mr Elksnins!"

Bergmanis says that any concerns about the €250 million contract should have been addressed to his ministry instead of other agencies such as the Prosecutor General.

He then embarks on a point-by-point take-down of Elksnins' concerns, as previously reported by LSM.

The minister can barely restrain his sarcasm at several points, in particular with reference to Elksnins' claims that the vehicles Latvia has bought are clapped-out scrap metal or could be bought privately at a much lower cost.

Buying combat vehicles is not like buying a second hand car, Bergmanis says, pointing out that "in the military world things work differently."

"In the military world, equipment platforms are made with the intention of serving for at least the next 30 to 50 years," he points out, citing the US B-52 Bomber, F-16 fighter and M-1 Abrams tank as examples.

The CVR(T) platform being bought by Latvia (after extensive modernization) was designed in the late 1960s and entered service with the British Army in 1971. 

Bergmanis then questions Elksnins' own motives in a startling manner, saying he is manipulating the facts "in the best traditions of Russian propaganda" before saying the CVR(T) vehicles are better suited to Latvian terrain and better value for money than the German Boxer personnel carriers recently purchased by Lithuania.

"The CVR(T) is the fastest and most mobile fighting machine of its class in the world, and those of the Latvian army will be equipped with the world's most modern Israeli SPIKE anti-tank missile systems which have a four-kilometer distance and can destroy T-90 battle tanks costing 40 times more than a SPIKE rocket," Bergmanis says.

He then lists all the costs associated with the project, namely:

£39,418,015.19 (around €47m) for purchase of vehicles.
€209, 606 945 for full upgrades and armaments including SPIKE.
€9,411,083 for development of infrastructure to cater for the vehicles and cleaning etc.
€18,596,121 development of infrastructure related to weapons and guidance systems.
€2,047,671 training costs.
€9,852,818 personnel costs.

"Thus, the total mechanization project costs over the next 10 years altogether will amount to €249,514,638," Bergmanis states for the record.

"Mr Elksnins, I urge you to stop spreading lies, I invite you to stop end showing off on social networks with secret documents," Bergmanis says before signing off with a Latvian proverb: "Lies have short legs."

However, despite the intemperate counterblast, Elksnins defended his right as an elected member of parliament to question the deal.

"Look, the first response from Berganis about buying the scrap metal... and not a word about why this scrap is better than [military equipment bought by] Lithuania or Estonia."

 

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