MADRID - In the new NATO strategy, Russia is called what it is - a threat to peace and security, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) told LETA from the sidelines of the NATO Summit in Madrid last night.
The politician noted that the new strategy adopted during the summit also mentions China, which the alliance has not mentioned so far, but now this too has happened.
The minister said that this was one of the most transformative summits in the history of the alliance from since the late 1990s and early 2000s, because at that time several alliance summits decided on the expansion of NATO.
Rinkevics reminded that in Prague in 2002 Latvia received an invitation to join NATO and in March 2004 the country became a part of the alliance.
"Being well aware that the security situation can change, we still hoped that NATO would not have to change its strategy and tactics as much as is happening now, taking into account the Russian invasion of Ukraine," said the Latvian foreign minister.
He emphasized that several important decisions were made during the NATO summit. According to the minister, in fact, since the end of the Cold War, it has been assumed that the so-called high combat readiness forces will consist of 300,000 soldiers. Some of these soldiers will be located in their own country, but if necessary, they can be moved very quickly to where it is needed - on NATO's Eastern or Southern flank.
Also, during the summit, a decision was made on the creation of the NATO Innovation Fund, where Latvia also participates. On Thursday morning, 23 NATO member states signed the declaration of intent. According to Rinkevics, the alliance understands that it must not lose its technological and military superiority.
"The Alliance understands that it is necessary to invest in the military industry. We are largely returning to what was once the basic task of the alliance - we need to produce more weapons, armaments, ammunition, in order not only to help Ukraine, but also to arm ourselves," said the politician.
He pointed out that on Wednesday the defense ministers of Latvia and Canada signed a joint memorandum on the gradual establishment of a brigade-level unit in Latvia, while US President Joe Biden announced the sending of additional forces to Europe, in addition, the US will involve its units in the so-called rotational presence in the Baltic region.
Speaking about what homework Latvia needs to do, the Minister pointed out that additional military infrastructure needs to be set up so that these forces can be received and deployed. The politician said that Latvia is very well aware that the security situation can change faster, so work will be continued to ensure that the new plans are more specific and precise, so that, in case of need, rapid response forces can really arrive in Latvia quickly.
Among the tasks to be completed, the minister mentioned the protocols of Sweden and Finland's accession to NATO, and this will be the task of the Saeima. Rinkevics noted that he has been in constant communication with the chairman of the Saeima's Foreign Affairs Committee, Rihards Kols (National Alliance). There is a complete understanding between the two politicians that as soon as copies of the signed documents are received, the Saeima will work on their ratification as soon as possible.
"Finland and Sweden did not join NATO even during the Cold War, but now this has happened. I can say without exaggeration that this is a historic event," the minister said.
Asked whether the two countries changed their minds about joining NATO due to changes in the security situation, the Latvian foreign minister answered in the affirmative. He said that as recently as last December, Russia was complaining that NATO had moved closer to its borders. Now Russia has received two more new NATO members.
"I often remind my colleagues that it was not the expansion of NATO that caused Russia's aggression. The inherently aggressive intentions of Russia that we have seen over the years are forcing countries that previously considered NATO membership to be a non-priority to reevaluate their security policies and ask to the alliance to accept them into its ranks," said the politician.
He emphasized that this is a direct result of Russia's aggressive policy. At one time, when Latvia started its path to NATO, it was well aware that a moment might come when the country would face serious problems.
The politician pointed out that the opinion at the negotiating table, which brings together the leaders and foreign ministers of 30 NATO member states, has also radically changed. According to the minister, even those who, despite the occupation of Crimea, said two or four years ago that on the one hand security should be ensured, and on the other hand - we should still try to negotiate with Russia. At present, the general opinion is that Ukraine should be assisted as much as possible so that it could win the war.
Rinkevics also pointed out that sometimes the Southern flank of NATO is a little forgotten. He emphasized that for common security, strengthening the Southern flank is as important as strengthening the Eastern flank, because, for example, as a result of famine or conflict, waves of migration may start again.
Asked if the decisions made at the summit are sufficient to effectively ensure the protection of NATO's Eastern flank, Rinkevics emphasized that the decisions are adequate, but Latvia has "left a foot in the door" to work further if necessary.
The politician said when compared to 2016, when NATO battle groups were deployed in the Baltic States and Poland, then battle groups are currently are being deployed throughout the Eastern flank, including Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.
"After February 24, the support of the Allies has increased. Now there are concrete plans for the deployment of additional weapons, ammunition, also for the deployment of command and control elements, anti-aircraft defense systems and the gradual formation of brigades, but this will not happen tomorrow. We cannot relax. Security is a changing process and, perhaps, tomorrow the situation may require even broader decisions," said the Latvian Foreign Minister.
He also added that nothing has ended with the conclusion of the NATO summit, everything has only just begun - decisions have been made and they need to be implemented, and Latvia can be satisfied with the result achieved at the summit.