State defense concept adopted in Latvia

Defense is likely to receive funding equivalent to 3% of gross domestic product next year, Defense Minister Ināra Murniece (National Alliance) said in a press briefing on Tuesday, September 5. It is also planned to further increase the strength of the National Armed Forces (NBS) and to expand the presence of NATO troops in Latvia.

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has forced the Latvian State Defense concept to be revised for the coming years, accelerating the pace of planned improvements. Latvia has planned to increase its armed forces' head count and is expecting a wider presence of NATO contingent troops in Latvia next year.

“Our international threats will not change – they are based on Russia. If Russia is not defeated in the war with Ukraine, it is likely to restore its war potential over the next three to five years. This means increasing threats and risks for the Baltic region and NATO's eastern flank,” Mūrniece said at the government meeting on Tuesday.

Preparing a plan providing for a potential strength of the armed forces with 31,000 troops and 30,000 reserve soldiers is envisaged.

The foundation and backbone of the concept of State Defense is the Latvian soldier, national guard and Latvian society, said the Commander of the National Armed Forces, Leonīds Kalniņš. The international situation suggests thinking about building up the country's military capabilities and a comprehensive defense of the country. These measures are a priority for both the departing government and the future Cabinet. This means that the concept will  be carried out.

The concept involves increasing the number of combat-capable armies and its reserves. The state defense service is scheduled to include 850 young people in two drafts next year. At the moment, it is reasonable to think that the second draft will be very good: it could be fully composed of volunteers.

The concept also includes a significant involvement of the local industry in supplying the army. The Minister for Defense said that the government could decide next week to create a new capital company to meet the needs of the military industry in order to expand full-cycle munitions production in Latvia.

The concept in the defense and deterrence capacity section refers to the protection of the territory of Latvia and the civilian population from the first centimeter with all possible means and resources. This means strengthening NBS capabilities and regular training, as well as increasing NATO groups deployed in Latvia and a joint focus on strengthening NATO's anti-air defense capabilities.

As previously announced, Canada will double the number of troops in Latvia to 2,200 next year, and additional troops from Italy and Denmark are expected.

Mūrniece also pointed out that Latvia's eastern border should be defensible from a military point of view. Options for deploying antitank mines, and concrete and metal structures on the border are under consideration.

Strengthening the eastern border is one of the new chapters of the concept, the minister emphasized, promising that the Ministry of Defence and the defense sector will do everything possible to support the internal affairs services in practice.

The concept also includes a section on cyber protection. 

The Minister for Defense also expressed hope that the concept of State Defense will be further updated when it is debated the Saeima. The government adopted the concept on Tuesday, September 5, unanimously and without discussion.

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