Baltic Republics Pledge More Defense Spending as Ukraine Crisis Continues

Latvian soldier participating in Saber Strike 2013 exerciseFrom Office of the President of Lithuania:  Membership in NATO and the European Union is our indisputable strength – which was confirmed by life itself. It gives our people not only military, political and economic security guarantees, but also signifies a relationship with other nations based on democratic values, mutual trust and respect.

The world trusts Lithuania, so let us also trust ourselves more.

First, we have to stand in unity and to work together in order to respond to new challenges.

It is necessary to renew without any delay the national agreement between all political parties on foreign and security policies, and also on adequate finances for defence. We have advanced to reach the two percent defence spending target in the next five years without hurting other economic areas and social groups.

There is no other way – until help arrives, we must be able to defend ourselves.

Excerpt from State of the Nation Address by Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania.

From Office of the President of Latvia:  [T]he President of Latvia Andris Bērziņš had a meeting with the Minster of Defense Raimonds Vējonis to discuss current issues in the field of national defense.

During the meeting, the officials discussed the increase of defense budget as well as the armed forces development plans. The President has expressed his support for additional funding for the defense sector with the aim to strengthen and develop National Armed Forces and ensure the performance of Latvian international obligations.

From Financial Times:  Latvia and Lithuania became the first European countries to announce big increases in their military spending following the Crimean crisis, in response to pressure from the US for its allies to boost their defence budgets.

Both Baltic countries intend to more than double their defence budget to reach the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of GDP annually on the military. . . .

Raimonds Vejonis, Latvia’s defence minister, told the Financial Times his country should reach the 2 per cent target by 2020, up from today’s defence budget of 0.9 per cent of GDP. He will shortly introduce a law to parliament to that effect after the government signed off on the policy. . . .

He added: “The Ukraine crisis opened the eyes not only for politicians but for society, for other European countries and also for Nato.”

Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaite, used her state of union address on Thursday to say the southernmost of the Baltic states should boost its defence budget quickly. “We can meet the 2 per cent defence expenditure target in the next five years,” she said.

Her call lifts the pressure on the government, which is meeting this weekend to agree a new defence budget as Lithuania only spends 0.8 per cent of GDP on its military. The defence minister said this week that Lithuania planned to increase spending by 0.1 percentage points of GDP per year, implying it will reach the target by 2025-26.

Image: Latvian soldier participating in Saber Strike 2013 exercise (photo: Gatis Dieziņš/Latvian Ministry of Defense)