Vai Latvija ir drošības drauds Igaunijai?

29. novembris, 2012

Foto: Redyamflan

Kaut arī nav pamats uzskatīt Latviju par drošības draudu Igaunijai un ES, tomēr Latvijas aizsardzības sistēmai būtu nepieciešami nopietni uzlabojumi. Ieteikumi un argumenti.Raksts angļu valodā.

Atbildot uz nesenajiem Igaunijas aizsardzības ekspertu apgalvojumiem, ka „Latvija drošības ziņā ir tukšums”[ 1 ], R. Rublovskis norāda uz vairākiem būtiskiem iemesliem, kāpēc Igaunijas kolēģi nonākuši pie šādiem secinājumiem. Vienlaikus raksta autors uzsver, ka Igaunijas aizsardzības sistēma ir veidota lielākoties pēc Somijas militārās pieejas –teritoriālā aizsardzība, militārā personāla apjomu, paļaušanās uz pašu spēkiem un prasmēm. Tomēr pastāv būtiska atšķirība – Somija nav NATO dalībvalsts, bet Latvija un Igaunija ir. Kā Latvijai rīkoties, lai uzlabotu savu drošības un aizsardzības kapacitāti – lasiet rakstā.

Recent exchange of views between Estonian experts and Latvian politicians on Latvian defense capabilities brought very important issue on the surface. What would be the main reason for some Estonian politicians, experts and defense employees to consider Latvia as the weakest point in the NATO’s Baltic region security and defense?

In my opinion, in order to address those issues one has to consider several overarching aspects which significantly impact and will have significant influence on the Baltic security and defense. Firstly, it is the membership of the Baltic States in NATO, secondly, the very fact that Latvia and other Baltic members of NATO are small countries with very limited resources and, subsequently, very limited opportunity to allocate significant resources to the defense needs, if compared with global level of defense spending. One would also consider substantial decrease of defense budgets of European NATO members, the strategic shift of the United States to the Pacific region and discussions of withdrawal of American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe as direct challenge for NATO Alliance and, subsequently, for Latvia and other Baltic states.

Taking into account all previously mentioned points one would go straight to the Latvia’s case. What is the reason why Latvia is considered by some experts and politicians as weakest part of the Baltic security? One would argue that lack of political will to comply with 2% of GDP benchmark is the most serious challenge which deeply impacts both- internal situation in Latvia regarding further development of Latvian National Armed Forces, and external relationship with the United States, our neighbors, and NATO Alliance as such.

On one hand Latvia has approved new State Defense concept in 2012, there is political commitment to reach 2% of GDP benchmark in 2020, and Long Term development plan of National Armed Forces up to 2024 is also approved, however, one would argue that the further implementation of all those concepts and plans will certainly face substantial challenges. The first and utmost important challenge is that of defense budget of Latvia. Current situation requires from the Government of Latvia to improve situation with education, health care, demographics and other urgent issues, and, unfortunately, defense budget seems to be rather low in priority list. One can assume that even sustainment of 1 % of GDP within timeframe 2012-2015 could be seen as the key challenge and, subsequently, it could negatively impact entire commitment of reaching 2% of GDP by 2020.

Secondly, the personnel issue is on the table. One would argue that Latvian military are well prepared and well equipped at the individual level, however, luck of financial resources can and will negatively impact personnel development. Bearing in mind that significant number of highly professional and motivated military personnel has retired since the beginning of financial crisis in 2008, one can assume that currently Latvian defense system is facing substantial challenge to maintain itself as professional and motivated. Moreover, taking into account demographic challenges what Latvia is facing now, still substantial level of emigration, it is highly unlikely that Latvian National Armed Forces will be able to recruit and maintain sufficient number of educated and motivated personnel. Lack of sufficient defense funding and challenges of personnel issue within time-frame 2012-2015 may lead to the dilemma for the Latvian National Armed Forces either to maintain classic institutional force structure or transform it into highly specialized set of military capabilities, with my advice to put Special Operations Unit into highest priority list.

Another significant issue for Latvian National Armed Forces is further participation in international military operations which requires significant manpower and logistic resources. It is obvious that international military operations shall still remain high on priority list of Latvia’s security and defense agenda. Participation in these operations provides personnel of armed forces with profound combat experience on tactical level, enhances interoperability within multinational environment, however, leadership of Latvian National Armed should find proper way to participate into those military operations, especially, after 2014, when NATO forces will end their mission in Afghanistan.

Concerning the experience of Latvia with professional armed forces versus conscript service, one would list several advantages as well as shortfalls of being professional army. Higher motivation of professionals to serve in the armed forces versus conscript service is obvious; however, number of militarily trained personnel is significantly lower when country has professionals only, it also decreases the link between professional army and society, and decreases wider understanding about state defense and security matters within general society. On the other hand , in the 21st century security environment, there is no need to maintain large numbers of military personnel, because technological development is increasingly important within security and defense environment, and this aspect requires skillful, educated and motivated personnel which conscription simply cannot provide. Put it simple- numbers of military, including conscripts, are not decisive feature of military engagement of the 21st century.

One would argue that in Estonian case, there is strong influence of Finland military approach to the security and defense, which requires territorial defense, rather significant numbers of military personnel, reliance on their own resources and capabilities. However, Finland is not part of NATO Alliance, but Estonia and Latvia are members of the Alliance where Article 5 commitment and collective defense are core principles, and this issue could bring profound difference between NATO military planning and that of Finland concerning threat assessment, force structure, operational plans, military doctrines etc.

My opinion is that Estonia should not view Latvia as a threat to its security because both countries are members of NATO Alliance, however, Latvia MUST find political will to significantly increase defense budget, increase control on the spending of the resources allocated to defense needs and, subsequently, ensure development of Latvian National Armed forces. However, bearing in mind the fact that all three Baltic States are small with very limited resources they can afford to allocate to defense needs, if compared with global military spending and military capabilities, percentage of GDP allocated to the state defense is mostly political expression of will and commitment to defend the country. Estonia could be the champion of NATO with more than 2, 3, 4 or 5 percent of GDP allocated to the defense needs, but the country will still need collective security and defense provided by NATO and strategic partnership with the United States.

Further security and defense arrangements

What could be further security and defense cooperation framework among the Baltic States? How NATO “Smart Defense” concept could be used to enhance profound cooperation? Certainly, NATO Air Policing mission is one of the good examples of smart defense; however, further improvement of mutual understanding among three Baltic States concerning Host Nation Support to that NATO mission is essential.

Further security and defense arrangements for Latvia and other Baltic states will depend on ability of NATO to remain an effective military organization with timely and efficient decision-making process and the ability of the United States to remain militarily effective and committed to defense and security of Europe, and the Baltic States in particular. Due to historical, geographical reasons and membership in NATO three Baltic States are doomed to cooperate more closely, and Estonia has to finalize its internal debate whether to follow patterns of collective defense approach with reliance on professional armed forces or still follow Finnish experience of self-reliance and self-defense which requires substantial numbers of conscripts. Nordic-Baltic military cooperation should be enhanced; however it cannot be substitute to NATO security guaranties and the United States military involvement into defense of the Baltic Region.

Latvia has to increase its defense spending to 2 % of GDP as soon as possible, but not later 2016, in order to reassure its political commitment to the NATO Alliance and our neighbors.

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