NATO battle groups in Baltics do not pose threat to Russia - Latvian president

  • 2016-07-08

The battalion-size battle groups NATO is set to deploy in the Baltic nations must not be perceived as a threat to Russia by any means, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis said at the Warsaw Summit Experts' Forum, NATO in Defense of Peace: 2016 and Beyond.

Vejonis emphasised in his speech that Russia has deployed three new divisions on NATO's eastern border and that each one individually is larger than the all of the allied forces in the Baltics combined. Russia's active military buildup is endangering peace and stability in other countries, the president stated. In response to this, NATO allies have strengthened their presence in the Baltic States and Poland. "Latvia is a small country; our best chance to enjoy peace and stability is membership in NATO," Vejonis said, pointing out the simultaneous need to co-operate and maintain communication with Russia.

NATO was established in response to the challenges posed by the Soviet Union, its aim being to avoid World War Three. "There were several dangerous moments during the Cold War. (Peace) was achieved," Vejonis noted, indicating that this ensured the longest period of relative peace in Europe since the Roman Empire crumbled. However, the new generation of Europeans has adopted a different perspective of the situation and often yields to the influence of various populist politicians. As a result, Vejonis feels, NATO needs to continue playing its role of the provider of peace and stability.

According to Vejonis, the global community is currently facing substantial hurdles. War in Iraq and Daesh (Islamic State) have brought floods of refugees in to Europe, in addition to stunning the world with attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Istanbul. Protecting citizens and values is vital in this day in age.

Canada has decided to assume the lead role in forming the NATO battalion-size battle group in Latvia, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics confirmed in a conversation with BNS.

Rinkevics did not disclose any further details.

The minister emphasised the gravity of the work ahead at the level of military experts and to ensure the function of the host nation.

"We are thankful to Canada for taking up the role of the leading country. We believe this is a very serious decision in strengthening transatlantic ties and strengthening security of our region," Rinkevics stated.

The NATO Warsaw summit commenced on Friday. NATO leaders are expected to solidify plans for the deployment of four multi-national battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, which feel threatened by Russia's actions in Ukraine.

The new NATO deterrence and security concept provides that the battalion's leading country will be deployed in the country permanently. Troops that would like to participate in the battle group will be deployed on a rotation principle.

Latvia is represented by President Raimonds Vejonis, Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, and National Armed Forces Commander Raimonds Graube at the summit.

As reported, battalion-sized battle groups will be deployed in the Baltic States and Poland, and they will be headed by the UK, Canada, Germany, and the United States.