Comments On New State Defence Concept Of Latvia

Current State Defense Concept of the Republic of Latvia has been approved by the Saeima(Parliament) in June 19, 2008. Since then there some significant changes occurred within global security environment. Those changes have deeply affected Latvia’s defense and security structure and capabilities.

Firstly, the consequences of Global financial crisis have been very severe for economy of Latvia, and, subsequently, for the defense budget of Latvian MoD, which has suffered significant cuts since 2008. It is not even close to the figures of Latvian defense spending of 2004-2007.

Secondly, conclusions of Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008 also have put different emphasis on security and defense issues for Latvia and other Baltic States.

Bearing in mind those two aspects, one has to emphasize some points concerning new Latvian State Defense Concept draft, which should be approved by the Parliament in summer of 2012.

The structure of this draft seems to be logical and the substance is much more real political than current State Defense Concept of 2008, however there is still some space for improvement.

The first is the defense budget issue. Latvia is far below 2% benchmark of GDP on defense spending; one can assume that even 1% of GDP could be seen as the challenge for current Latvian Government. If Latvia will not be able to maintain at least 1, 2% of GDP for defense spending within the budget of 2012, the internal and external consequences would be very severe.

The second issue is that of personnel. Bearing in mind that significant number of highly professional and motivated military personnel has retired during 2008-2010, one cannot assume that current organization of Latvian National Armed Forces can be viewed as professional and motivated. Moreover, taking into account demographic challenges which Latvia is facing now, high ratio of the emigration, it is highly unlikely that Latvian National Armed Forces will be able to recruit and maintain sufficient numbers of educated and motivated personnel.

The third issue is related to the level of ambitions for participation in International Military Operations. Taking into account previous points, one cannot be sure that numbers of personnel declared for International Operations will be sustainable in the future.

Certainly, the most important tasks for the Latvian military will be participation in International Military Operations, improvement of Host Nation Support capabilities and assistance to the civilian institutions. One could emphasize importance of internal security for Latvia; therefore Concept should pay more attention on involvement of military personnel and capabilities in order to assist civilian structures.

New State Defense Concept should be based on very realistic assumptions, such as availability of resources, rapid changes in Global security environment, and, certainly, all planning assumptions should be based on collective security concept.

Published 24 October 2011

Author Raimonds Rublovskis