RIGA - Strong NATO collective defense is still crucial to deter Russia from aggressive actions, said Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity).
As LETA was informed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in preparation for the NATO Summit planned for the summer, a face-to-face meeting of NATO foreign ministers was held in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday. During the event, the officials discussed the NATO 2030 reflection process, the challenges of the Alliance in the southern neighborhood and the situation in Afghanistan, as well as relations with Russia and arms control issues.
The foreign ministers discussed the dialogue with Russia, during which the foreign ministers of Finland, Sweden and the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, were also invited. Rinkevics also emphasized that the Alliance must continue to have an open dialogue with Russia, while at the same time respecting the basic principles and values of the alliance. With regard to arms control, the minister expressed the need for coordination and mutual awareness of allies on these issues.
The Latvian Foreign Minister expressed solidarity with Bulgaria, where several people were recently detained on suspicion of espionage for Russia and two Russian diplomats were expelled.
In a discussion on the reflection process to strengthen NATO's political dimension, Rinkevics expressed support for the alliance's secretary general's approach to leading this debate. According to the minister, it is important to continue work in this direction in order to complete the final proposals before the NATO Summit this summer.
"It is important for us that the reflection process strengthens NATO, both militarily and politically," Rinkevics added, adding that NATO's core mission must remain the collective defense of allies in response to current security challenges and risks in the Euro-Atlantic area. Latvia is and will continue to contribute to this joint effort in increasing collective defense by investing 2.3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in defense spending.
Discussing the situation in the alliance's southern neighborhood, ministers agreed that the alliance must continue to strengthen security in the region. Rinkevics expressed the opinion that in the context of NATO's 360-degree approach, collective measures should be continued in order to prevent security challenges and risks that come from both the East and the South.
According to the minister, the alliance's involvement must be in line with the alliance's strategic interests, as well as the needs of its partners. ''We need to continue working with partners to increase stability in the Middle East and North Africa region, with a special focus on the fight against terrorism and the spread of extremism,'' Rinkevics said.
Touching on the situation in Afghanistan, the Latvian Foreign Minister expressed support for the peace process and efforts to stabilize the situation in that country.