RIGA - Given the threats posed by Russia and its confrontational policy in the region, concrete decisions on strengthening the security of the Alliance's eastern flank must be made at the forthcoming NATO summit in Madrid in June this year, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics emphasized.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an informal meeting of NATO ministers in Berlin was organized this weekend to discuss Finland's and Sweden's relations with NATO, support for Ukraine and strengthening the Alliance's deterrence and defense.
In the run-up to NATO's meeting in Madrid, Rinkevics noted the need to continue efforts to increase member states' defense spending to ensure adequate funding for the Alliance's mission in today's strategic environment.
"The adjustment pace must be maintained so that NATO can make a successful adjustment in the next decade," Rinkevics said.
As the Minister emphasized, it is important for Latvia that the future NATO Strategic Concept realistically and without illusions reflect the existing security environment, its challenges and threats. Latvia urges that the concept reflect elements such as Russia's long-term threat to the Alliance, emphasis on collective security as NATO's core mission, further political and military adaptation of the Alliance, transatlantic unity, new technology challenges, NATO-EU cooperation and affirmation of open door policies.
It is also in Latvia's interest to make it clear in NATO's Strategic Concept that fundamental changes in NATO's deterrence and defense are needed to protect the region and deter Russia.
During the discussion on the Russian war in Ukraine, the Latvian Foreign Minister emphasized that Russia poses an existential threat to the security of the Euro-Atlantic area.
Rinkevics assessed that the threat posed by Russia is not expected to decrease in the coming years, therefore it is important that NATO's long-term deterrence and defense be more fully adapted to the new strategic reality and current security challenges.
"Each of the Baltic states needs the largest permanent presence of NATO allied forces, which would include air defense and missile defense systems and other critical capabilities," said Rinkevics.
At the meeting, NATO Foreign Ministers also heard information from their Finnish and Swedish counterparts on national security reports prepared by their governments.
The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed support for the accession of Finland and Sweden to the Alliance, which will significantly enhance the security of the Baltic Sea region and the entire Eastern flank of NATO, as well as strengthen the Alliance's deterrence and defense capabilities.
According to Rinkevics, Finland and Sweden are NATO's closest partner countries with forces that are professional, capable and meet NATO standards. Latvia advocates the accession of these countries to the Alliance, taking into account the geographical location, the existing cooperation, as well as the similar understanding of the threat.