Defense spend to hit 1.4% of GDP next year

As much as 1.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) equivalent to €350m will be allocated for defense next year, said Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis in an interview with commercial LNT television on Monday, the BNS newswire reported.

The increase would be substantial compared to this year's spend of 1 percent of GDP (€254m) and would keep Latvia on track to hit its target of 2% of GDP defense spending by 2018.

The minister said that there are many needs that require additional allocations, including an increase of staff, development of infrastructure and new air defense systems.

"Of course, we will have a bigger army, but it is not easy to ensure it," he said.

Bergmanis also noted that this year the competition for the National Defense Academy this year has been more intense than in earlier years. He said that currently there are about 5,000 troops in the professional military service, and in the near future this number will be increased to 6,000.

After years of low-level spending on defense, Russia's actions in Ukraine and elsewhere have concentrated the minds of officials on increasing Latvia's military capability and responding to calls from NATO allies for Latvia to play a greater role in protecting its own borders. 

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