RIGA - In its new strategic concept, NATO must take into consideration Europe's new reality where Russia is an aggressive state, President Egils Levits told journalists following a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
The president indicated that his talks with the NATO chief focused on security in the Baltic states and on NATO's eastern flank, considering the war started by Russia in Ukraine. The Latvian president underlined solidarity among NATO member states and said that allied presence would be increased in Latvia by adding more troops to NATO's battle group. Canada and also Spain have pledged to increased their contingent in Latvia, Levits said.
He also confirmed Latvia's plan to increase its defense spending from 2.35 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP. In Levits' words, the allies have already reassured Latvia that Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty is sacrosanct. This has been repeatedly affirmed by US President Joe Biden, who has pledged to defend every inch of the Alliance's territory.
Ukraine currently needs all kinds of assistance - military, financial and humanitarian, Levits said. He considers Russia's attack on Ukraine an attack also on the West, democracies, values and a rules-based world order. The president said that the NATO chief and he also discussed possibilities to respond to this attack, including by means that are not being actively discussed for now.
Stoltenberg said that he had an in-depth discussion with the Latvian president on Russia's brutal invasion of Ukraine. He noted that Ukraine's people and armed forces have surprised the world with their courage but that Putin continues his warfare, wreaking destruction and killing scores of civilians. Also, many Ukrainians have left their country in what has become the largest refugee crisis after World War II, Stoltenberg said.
We receive credible reports of civilians being shelled as they attempt to leave their homes. Shooting civilians is a war crime which is absolutely unacceptable. We need to provide humanitarian evacuation corridors the operation and principles of which were fully respected. For months we have been indicating to Putin that he will pay a high price for the invasion of Ukraine. He is now paying the price, the NATO chief said.
Stoltenberg noted that Russia is now being targeted by sweeping and unprecedented sanctions and that Russia has practically found itself in complete isolation from the rest of the world. Stoltenberg added that NATO is helping Ukraine to exercise its rights to self-defense by providing support worth billions of euros, as well as offering assistance to Ukraine's war refugees. The NATO chef underlined the necessity to ensure that the military conflict does not broaden beyond Ukraine, as this might lead to an even more dangerous and deadliest outcome. Stoltenberg stressed that if we do not take action, the situation can become uncontrollable.
We need to stop the war, preventing its escalation and expansion. This is why we are also increasing our presence in Latvia and other Eastern flank countries, to make it absolutely clear to Russia that we will protect and stand by all members of our Alliance in all our territories, Stoltenberg said.