Defense Minister: permanent NATO presence in Latvia probable

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A decision on the permanent presence of NATO forces in Eastern Europe could be taken at the end of June at the Madrid summit, according to Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks, LETA reported March 16.

He said it was the new phase of NATO development, strengthening the entire eastern flank from Turkey in the south to the Baltic states in the north.

Pabriks said that 2,000–3,000 NATO troops are present in Latvia, but there has been no decision on permanent presence. A permanent presence would also mean a permanent deployment of weapons and equipment stocks, so that they are already in place in the event of a crisis. It would also mean additional permanent deployment of NATO forces.

Such a decision would also mean that the countries of Eastern Europe themselves “need to get more together and invest more in defense,” said Pabriks.

Pabriks told Latvian Television that Latvia is also interested in buying or requesting other countries to deploy medium-distance anti-aircraft weapons on the territory of the country, as Latvia currently has only short-distance weapons. The Minister acknowledged that it was not easy to obtain such weapons because they were needed by all Member States.

Pabriks also said that Europe's security situation has changed fundamentally and the new situation needs to be addressed now: "We need to change the balance of allied forces in our region by providing strong protection. The presence of existing allies needs to be expanded."

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