RIGA - Canada, together with allies, will expand and strengthen their presence in Latvia, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) told LETA from the NATO Summit in Madrid.
The Minister noted that a declaration would be signed between Latvia and Canada, outlining specific steps concerning the brigade element, command and air defense.
Rinkevics said that Latvia and Canada will sign a bilateral declaration outlining specific measures pertaining to the brigade element, command and air defense.
The minister added that already since February 24, Denmark, Canada and Spain have increased the number of their troops in Latvia. The enhanced presence will consist of two elements, the first of them being command, air defense and military supplies that are deployed in the country, as well as soldiers.
The second element will be military units that are able to arrive in Latvia very quickly. It is also necessary to take into consideration that those troops that are rotated to Latvia take part in military exercises, get familiar with the territory and learn cooperation skills with Latvian soldiers.
Asked if it is currently enough to ensure Latvia's security, the foreign minister said that when Latvia joined NATO, its security could be ensured by four four fighter jets policing Baltic airspace, but that the situation then was completely different. The situation changed already in 2008 when Russia attacked Georgia and work started on the first defense plan for the Baltics. At that time, too, it seemed that the measures were sufficient.
In 2014, the first NATO units arrived in Latvia, and at the 2016 summit it was decided to set up battalion-size battle groups to boost security in the Baltic states and Poland. At that time, these were adequate response measures, Rinkevics said.
"The current decisions are reinforcing and increasing our security, but the security environment is changing. It will be necessary to follow these changes and adapt as necessary. This is about flexibility. We are taking into consideration Russia's aggressive rhetoric. We continue to work with the allies. For now, this is a good achievement in my opinion," the foreign minister said.
Rinkevics also emphasized that it envisages several homework assignments for Latvia - it is necessary to develop its training grounds and warehouses. He noted that the armed forces already have plans to develop these areas. The Foreign Minister emphasized that the NATO Summit was only the beginning of the implementation of new defense plans and the deployment of additional forces from Allied countries.
Speaking about Latvia's benefits from the NATO Summit in Madrid, the Foreign Minister pointed out that although Sweden and Finland were close NATO partners, they were not members of the alliance.
"From a military point of view, we have had two militarily difficult locations: the Suwalki corridor and the island of Gotland. Who controls the island of Gotland controls a large part of the Baltic Sea, and that is important. There will be joint defense plans as Sweden and Finland become part of NATO, and this will play a completely different in our protection. This in addition to additional troops and greater cooperation - these are all benefits," Rinkevics emphasized.
He said the Finnish-Russian border was about 1,300 kilometers long. That is why Sweden and Finland also need to invest in developing their defense.
"In a way, the Baltic Sea is becoming a NATO sea. The possible deployment of additional armed forces must be taken into account, as well as the contribution of these countries to the overall NATO funding for infrastructure development," said Rinkevics.
As reported, Latvia is being represented at the NATO Summit in Madrid by Rinkevics, President Egils Levits and Defense Minister Artis Pabriks.