Latvian Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Transport Discuss Chicago Summit Priorities with NATO Secretary General

Courtesy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia (January 23, 2012)

On January 20, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Edgars Rink?vi?s, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks and Transport Minister Aivis Ronis met with the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

The ministers discussed with Secretary General the upcoming NATO Summit to be held this year in Chicago and expressed support for priorities put forward by Secretary General for this meeting of the Alliance’s leaders. The ministers emphasized that Latvia had a special interest in the smart defense initiative proposed by the allies, the aim of which is to pool the countries’ efforts and achieve as efficient and economical defense solutions as possible. In line with this vision, the priority of the Baltic states at the Chicago Summit will be to achieve a long-term solution to NATO’s air-policing operation in the Baltic states.

The ministers also informed the visitors about their determination together with Estonia and Lithuania to provide additional support for this NATO mission and accentuated Latvia’s plans to gradually increase the defense budget to 2% of GDP.

When reviewing the agenda points of the Chicago Summit, the parties also discussed in detail the situation in Afghanistan and NATO’s partnership policies. While talking about Afghanistan, the ministers stressed that it was of particular importance for the allies to be united at the time when responsibility for security was being gradually transferred to Afghans themselves.

Foreign Minister Rink?vi?s also noted that the region neighboring Afghanistan was important for Afghanistan’s revival in the long term. ”As we are planning a future involvement of the international community in Afghanistan, it is important already now to listen to the opinions of Afghanistan’s neighbors, especially the Central Asian countries, about the region’s economic and political development,” Minister Rink?vi?s said. The Foreign Minister also accentuated that the said countries have a significant role in facilitating the transit of the ISAF non-lethal cargo and made note of the potential for reverse transit.

The Minister of Transport Aivis Ronis briefed about Latvia’s contribution to date and future plans for the involvement in the transit of non-lethal supplies for the needs of the ISAF. ”Latvia already serves as a principal hub for processing and delivering cargo along the Northern Distribution Network, as delivery of non-lethal supplies are organized for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. I would also confirm the readiness of Latvia’s transit and logistics system to ensure also a reverse flow of goods related to the removal of foreign armed forces personnel and equipment from Afghanistan, as well as developing, on the basis of these shipments, a regular trade route with Afghanistan and other countries of the Region in future,” Minister Ronis indicated.

When accentuating the Chicago Summit agenda point of the NATO partnership policy, the Foreign Minister reminded that a positive signal should be sent to NATO partner countries, such as Georgia, which has consistently supported a dialogue with NATO, carried out positive reforms and continues to contribute significantly to the NATO operation in Afghanistan.

The Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks invited the NATO Secretary General to turn attention to an increasing mutual dependence of states in the defense sector, as defense budgets are being reduced in a large number of NATO member countries. The minister indicated that the role of regional cooperation was increasing in this context, and thus one of strategic priorities in the defense system of Latvia was expanding and integrating cooperation among the Baltic states.

The minister noted that in such a way it was possible to synchronize and increase military capabilities in the region. ”Capability-oriented integration is possibly a long term solution also in other regions, and in this respect Baltics can provide a positive example,” Mr. Pabriks emphasized.

The Defense Minister also accentuated that a complex evaluation of military and non-military threats, like fighting for influence in the informational space, must be made possible in future. Therefore, the Defense Minister indicated, in order to face contemporary security challenges, an effective civilian and military cooperation was required.