Eleventh hour after 11 years in NATO?

On Sunday, March 29 Latvia marked the 11th anniversary of its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs released a statement on the occasion congratulating the nation on its “prescience” in making “the right decision” in 2004.

“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea a year ago enables us to evaluate the benefits of collective defense provided by NATO and enjoyed by Latvia over the past eleven years. This once again confirms that Latvia had prescience and made the right decision to begin NATO accession negotiations shortly after the restoration of independence in the early 1990s,” the statement read.

Latvia’s senior diplomat cited the “rapidly changing geopolitical security environment” as the primary context for the Alliance’s swift moves in the past year to approve and put into play its Readiness Action Plan taken at the Wales Summit.

Since then, the Allies have conducted regular military exercises in Latvia, beefed up their Baltic Air Policing mission and increased patrol ship activity in the Baltic Sea. This year NATO decided to set up its Joint Staff Elements in the alliance’s eastern region countries, and is in the process of developing its Centre of Excellence for Strategic Communication (STRATCOM) in Riga for the ‘soft power’ play for public opinion required to address the hybrid nature of the information wars.

Rinkēvičs affirms that Latvia has finally “committed itself to increasing its defense budget to at least 2% of GDP by 2018,” a requirement of its member status since acceding to the treaty.

Latvia was invited to join NATO in 2002 after being in the Partnership for Peace program since 1994 and putting into effect the Membership Action Plan starting in 1999. The accession process was finalized on March 29, 2004 in Washington and Latvia’s flag was raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 2, where it has flown ever since.

Latvia made a considerable contribution to NATO by taking part in the international peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Afghanistan since the 1990s and by regular participation in the NATO Response Force. 

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