RIGA - The greatest challenge the Baltic states' armed forces are facing due to the the Covid-19 crisis is the necessity to continue development and not preventing the defense budgets from being cut, Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (For Development/For) told LETA following a videoconference with his Baltic colleagues.
The Covid-19 crisis has not had a negative impact on the Baltic armed forces' combat power.
The three Baltic states have been developing their defense sectors at an equally fast pace, but now there are fears that this pace can start slowing down, the Latvian defense minister said. Defense development plans are always made for periods of several years, so any slowdown leaves an impact on future development. "This is one of the greatest challenges, and we will discuss it also at NATO's defense meeting. This is a challenge for most of NATO members," Pabriks admitted.
The minister said that as far as defense is concerned, the Baltic states have been successful in tackling the Covid-19 challenges.
In the videoconference, the minister discussed how the Covid-19 crisis will affect Baltic security and the development of the countries' armed forces. The minsters plan to discuss the topic also at their upcoming face-to-face meeting in Latvia.
The ministers also coordinated their positions on the upcoming June meeting of NATO defense ministers. These positions, however, are confidential.
The Defense Ministries of the Baltic states are currently at work on several joint documents, including on joint procurement and cooperation in air defense. The ministries also continue to coordinate positions on defense budgets and growth both in context of NATO and the European Union.
Pabriks said that the Latvian armed forces are going ahead with their planned large purchases and that the procurement procedures have not been suspended, but no budget talks have been held yet about the next coming years. "There is certain anxiety, but nothing has been slowed down," Pabriks said.
The defense ministers of the three Baltic states hold their meetings twice a year.