RIGA - US military experts are due to arrive in Latvia in August to provide advice to their Latvian colleagues on how to best build a new military base and training grounds in Selija, Defense Ministry spokesman Kaspars Galkins told LETA.
The Defense Ministry and National Armed Forces (NAF) will mainly be consulting with US military experts, but an involvement of Canadian experts is possible as well, Galkins said.
Latvia needs foreign advice because of two reasons. Firstly, NATO allies have vast experience of developing such sites, and secondly, the would-be military base will be hosting allied troops, so it is essential to learn about their needs.
The allied experts are also expected to visit the site on which the new training grounds and base will be developed. While the Defense Ministry has revealed the location of the new training grounds, the location of the military base is not being disclosed for now. This information might be made public following the consultations with the allies, Galkins said.
Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For) said on Twitter that the training grounds will be located in the southern Latvian region of Selija - the rural territories of Zalve, Sauka, Viesite, Daudzeva and Sece. Most of these territories belong of Latvijas Valsts Mezi (Latvian State Forests). The territory also includes 81 private properties, but there are few inhabited properties.
Pabriks promised that the Defense Ministry will negotiate with each property owner on an individual basis to agree on solutions that would be acceptable to both parties. Also, meetings will be organized with farmers and other parties concerned to explain how the military training grounds will developed in this territory.
According to the plan for the development of the Zalve training ground, the Defense Ministry plans to take over 25,606 hectares large territory, which includes 1,034.4 hectares of land owned by individuals and legal entities, 24,540.49 hectares of state-owned land and 30.91 hectares of municipal property, the Defense Ministry informed.
The training ground could be completed within 1.5 to two years. Pabriks indicated that the military base would not be built quickly but will be developed gradually.
Information on the cost estimate of these military development projects might be provided in the fall.