Germany has just confirmed that some 200 German soldiers might arrive in Latvia for training exercises next year, told Latvian Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Raimonds Graube, adding that Germany intends to send 800 troops to the Baltic states and some 1,700 soldiers to the Baltics and Poland in total.
Lieutenant General Graube said that this is a significant number and an indication of Germany's readiness to implement the decisions taken at NATO's recent summit in Wales.
After a meeting with Latvian lawmakers on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Graube told that as far as Latvia's national interests are concerned he has a very positive opinion of the NATO summit's outcome. "While working on the document on military threats to NATO, our objections and view on the situation at NATO's borders were taken into account. This has materialized in concrete political and military decisions," the Chief of Defence said.
Asked if the Latvian parliament's decision to raise the national defence budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2020 is adequate, Lieutenant General Graube said that it is consistent with the National Armed Forces' ability to absorb the growing financing and that the budget increase is based on a government-approved defence plan.
"I am glad that this situation [the rise of military threats due to the Ukraine conflict] did not take us by surprise. Of course, I cannot say that we had predicted that the situation will develop precisely in this way. But we were ready for this. Our defence development plan was approved in 2012, and practically there was no need to change it in the new situation," Lieutenant General Graube said, adding that a change of priorities was the only adjustment needed to the plan.
"We must not assume that we can know beforehand how the security situation will develop, for instance, in four years' time. We must keep our eyes and ears open so that we can respond properly to various changes both in terms of defence capabilities and budget," said Lieutenant General Graube.
The Chief of Defence explained that increasing military funding is not the only way to take preventive security measures. He mentioned recent training exercises in the southeastern Latvian city of Daugavpils and at the Latvian National Library which involved coordinated actions of both civilian and military defence structures.
"It is necessary to work out additional scenarios and to test them in exercises, including scenarios of major disasters, such as environmental disasters with many fatalities. Such situations require good coordination," Lieutenant General Graube said.
Commenting on the current level of threats to Latvia, Lieutenant General Graube said: "We are in NATO and safer than ever before. The decisions taken at the NATO summit provide additional security. All 28 member states perceive this situation like we do."
Lieutenant General Graube added, however, that Latvia should not only look at NATO, because there is still plenty of homework to do. "If we look at these hybrid-war scenarios, responsibility [for security] must be taken by a much broader range of sectors, including the education system, journalists, all state institutions and others, so that we can stamp out potential seeds of escalation," the Chief of Defence said.