Foreign Minister: Latvia should prepare for prolonged tension

Given the threat posed by Russia, Latvian society must be prepared for a longer period of tension, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs told Latvian Television January 27.

"Let us be realistic: international tensions will not ease in a month or two. What we are seeing now is that we must be prepared for a longer period of tension. Because we cannot say what will happen in the coming weeks, what Russia's actions will be like, for example, in Ukraine. The fact that this rhetoric is aggressive, this action is aggressive, the fact that in the 21st century it is not just about military attacks, but also, for example, cyber attacks, hybrid attacks we have faced, makes me say that this situation will have to be considered for several years," the Minister said,

According to him, the Saeima will have to do a number of things, including increasing the budget for both defense and internal security. On January 27, the Saeima is holding the annual Foreign Policy debate.

"We can't give money only to defense this time, forgetting about internal security. It is a national border, it is law enforcement bodies and national security authorities," the minister said.

According to him, the gap between the National Armed Forces and the Ministry of Interior can no longer be created. “The armed forces have developed well. We have very many problems in the Ministry of Interior. This is a matter that can no longer be seen in isolation,” said Rinkēvičs.

The Minister stressed that he had already spoken in 2018 about the need to increase the defense budget from 2% to 2.5% of the country's gross domestic product. “That 2.5% target has to be achieved. Not next year, but in a transparent future,” the foreign minister said. 

Later, in the foreign policy debate itself, Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš also signalled his willingness to further increase defense spending, saying he was in favor of the 2.5% of GDP level, without specifying the time period in which it might be introduced.

"I believe we should raise this [level] to 2.5% of GDP in coming years," Kariņš said, adding "Protect yourself and others will help you. And we will protect ourselves."

He also signalled his willingness for the European Union to develop its military capabilities, provided this also worked to enhance NATO's military strength.

"This will make Latvia stronger, make the EU stronger and make NATO stronger," he said.

The increase in defense spending has already been touted by Defense Minister Artis Pabriks, as previously reported by LSM.

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