"The new medium-term budget law will raise the defense spending to 2% of GDP. Next year Latvia will focus on strengthening its national defense capability to enhance combat and response skills of the Armed Forces and National Guard, whereas Youth Guard will continue civic and national education initiatives," the Defense Ministry said.
"One of the defense priorities of 2018 will be higher armed force combat readiness, which will be achieved through series of training courses, purchase of equipment and technology and development of military bases," it continued.
Compared to previous year, the money allocated to defense will grow by €126.8 million in 2018, reaching €576 million in total.
As recently as 2014, Latvia spent less than 1% of GDP on defense. However, events in Ukraine allied with a more demanding attitude from the NATO allies who provide considerable sums of troops and equipment to help protect the country have provided a wake-up call to both Latvia and Lithuania. Estonia was something of an exception, having consistently spent around 2% of GDP on defense for several years already.
In 2016, defense spending reached 1.4% of GDP. This year it was raised to 1.7% of GDP. Latvia is "strongly committed to not only achieve, but also keep defense spending at 2% of GDP beyond 2018," the ministry said.
As previously reported by LSM, major recent purchases have included 47 howitzers from Austria, 123 fighting vehicles from the UK and advanced radar systems from the United States. A recently concluded deal will bring Stinger missiles from Denmark.
Meanwhile facilities at Adazi army base and Lielvarde airbase have both undergone considerable upgrades to greatly increase their usefulness.