Military mobility has been discussed throughout European Union's and NATO's meetings ever since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Latvia checked and began developing the possibilities of moving troops and machinery, including via railroad, which proved challenging.
Ukraine's military mobility relies heavily on railways, the National Armed Forces (NBS) National Guard commander Jānis Slaidiņš told LTV, adding that railways are one of the main targets of the Russian attacks. In Latvia, too, the railway can easily be adjusted for military needs fairly easily, said Slaidiņš. It is more difficult with roads, as many have bridges that cannot carry the load of military machinery.
In 2019, the Ministries of Transport and Defense came up with a list of nearly 30 objects that could apply for money from the EU's Military Mobility fund. Latvia has applied for and received one grant of €5 million euro. At the same time, Lithuania has been able to apply for two projects with aid of €73 million, Estonia – for one project with aid of €31 million, according to De Facto's information.
“The application had been made before the war in Ukraine. And so maybe we looked at it a little differently than the situation at the moment makes us look at the various additional measures. If we have so far been more focused on the Rail Baltica project that could qualify as a military mobility project, we are currently looking more broadly at the entire transport infrastructure in Latvia," said Transport Minister Tālis Linkaits.
Latvia's application includes the addition of three building projects with military-interest functions within the “Rail Baltica”. Additional projects will be developed for the Daugava crossing at Salaspils (combined bridge for road transport and rail) and freight handling terminals in Salaspils and at Rīga airport. For the time being, it is in the design phase.
In the first round of the Military Mobility fund, projects were submitted by 14 Member States and all projects submitted were approved. Lithuania has applied for aid for the highest amount, planning to re-establish the high-speed highway between Kaunas and Marijampol. Five projects were submitted by Poland, with the aim of strengthening bridges as well as improving infrastructure at several airports.
The Latvian Transport Ministry hopes to apply for more funding in the second round, which the EC intends to announce this week, Transport Ministry representatives told Latvian Television.