Warning on «misleading» information about NATO arms in Latvia

Latvia's Defense Ministry on April 4 warned about the spread of "misleading" information concerning the status of NATO troops and equipment stationed in the country.

The warning came a week after an opposition member of parliament raised concerns that NATO troops in Latvia would enjoy legal immunity, whatever their actions and that the country was "giving away its sovereignty".

April 4 saw the Saeima's Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee support amendments to the law on "Status of foreign armed forces in the Republic of Latvia" ahead of its second reading in parliament.

The Defense Ministry said that "consciously or unconsciously" reports had been spread giving a misleading impression that foreign forces would be routinely carrying loaded weapons while stationed in Latvia and moving around within the country. 

The Ministry said it was important to stress that no NATO soldiers would be travelling around with loaded weapons on their own initiative and that new legal amendments were designed solely to ensure that if required in an emergency, NATO allies could provide maximum support in as short a time as possible without having to go through lengthy administrative procedures first.

"These amendments provide that NATO and EU Member States' armed forces and military equipment on Latvian territory can be moved loaded only with the consent of the Ministry of Defense," it added.

The law states that NATO and EU Member States' armed forces' units may move military equipment and arms across the Republic of Latvia's internal borders, if required for training purposes or for operational necessity in the case of a genuine threat. 

On March 28, lawmaker Julija Stepanenko of the opposition Harmony party issued a "personal view" expressing a range of misgivings about arrangements between Latvia and the NATO reinforcements arriving to protect it, specifically the so-Status Of Forces Agreement with the United States, of which which she was the only member to vote against ratification in Saeima.

"We guarantee the security of the US contingent and their protection from the Latvian people, without reference to Latvian law, including the right to use a weapon or force," Stepanenko said.

"How can we solve possible disputes with our guests, if our yard is full of his weapons, and we have no control over them?" she added, concluding: " With each such agreement we give away part of our sovereignty."

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