Latvia calls for long-term NATO presence in Baltics

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Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs called Thursday for a "long term NATO presence in the Baltics" to protect the region.




Speaking at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels ahead of a key NATO summit due to take place in Wales on September 4-5, Rinkēvičs stressed the changed security situation in Europe following events in Ukraine and called for "political will to commit the appropriate resources to fulfill the promises that have been made,” according to a Foreign Ministry press release.

He was speaking as debate continues in Latvia over what level of defense spending is appropriate. The country currently spends less than 1% of GDP on defense, well below the 2% level recommended by NATO.

On June 16 Rinkēvics wrote to the Saeima Budget and Finance Committee urging Parliament to treat defense spending as a priority.

"We must not and cannot wait for allies to invest in our security, if we ourselves are not ready to do that," Rinkēvičs said in the letter.

While the latest plan for increasing national defense expenditures calls for gradual increases to meet the benchmark by 2020, pressure has been mounting to increase spending more quickly in view of events in Ukraine. 

Finance Minister Andris Vilks told Latvian Public Radio Wednesday that increases to the defense budget will happen, but that it will take time to reach the 2% of GDP benchmark. 

He blamed reluctance on the part of Saeima members in an election year to commit greater resources to the military. 

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