Latvia’s defense minister Raimonds Vejonis attends NATO military exercises in Latvia recently (photo: twitter)
Russian is interested in destabilizing the Baltic States, Latvia's defense minister Raimonds Vejonis has claimed.
"Russia is demonstrating its military might and also that it is definitely interested in destabilizing the situation in Ukraine and Europe, and especially in the Baltic States. Therefore, we must be ready for such situations" Vejonis told LTV.
The defense minister told Latvian television EU sanctions against Russia amid the crisis in the Ukraine were not working.
Vejonis said: "We see that the situation keeps escalating endlessly. Alright, currently we have a ceasefire, which, however, seems to be broken. But essentially we see that the sanctions have not improved the situation and it continues to escalate," Vejonis said.
The EU accuses Russia of sending troops in to the east of the country, a claim Russia has repeatedly denied. EU leaders will now mull over imposing fresh sanctions against Russia amid the crisis.
Russia has said it will ban international flights from crossing its airspace if the extra sanctions are imposed. Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said tension between the Baltic States and Russia was 'artificially tense.'
On Friday, NATO agreed to "maintain a continued presence in the east" of the alliance, on a rotational basis.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen confirmed a new "spearhead" force, comprising several thousand troops and ready to deploy in a few day to deal "swiftly and firmly with any threat," Rasmussen said.
"This decision sends a clear message - NATO protects all allies, at all times," he told reporters at the NATO summit in Wales last week.
Taking into account the decisions made during the NATO Summit in Wales, it will be necessary to review Latvia's defense budget for the coming years, Vejonis further added.
Under NATO plans Latvia will have to take specific measures and secure infrastructure, Vejonis told Latvian radio.
This includes constructing additional warehouses for weapons and arms storage, building barracks for additional military units, and by consolidating the National Armed Forces. This means that the budget will have to be padded considerably in the years ahead, the minister said.
Saeima's Defense, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee will interview Vejonis on September 16 about Latvia's contribution into NATO's new rapid deployment force, the committee's chairman Ainars Latkovskis told the LETA news agency.
The committee is ready to offer all the help necessary in order to support NATO's plans, for example, by implementing amendments to the law. The most important issue is the 2015 state budget, and Vejonis hopes that the next parliament will consider it.