During today's annual foreign policy debates at Saeima, Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis said that the necessity for NATO is greater than it has ever been, but that it must adapt and changes together with the changes in the international security environment.
The minister pointed out that the support Latvia has received from allies in recent years has been especially important, and that 2016 was a historical year for Latvia's security. He mentioned the implementation of the decisions made during the Wales and Warsaw summits, so that the Baltic region takes a central role on the NATO agenda.
At the same time, Bergmanis said that NATO, as a Trans-Atlantic organization, has ensured peace on the European continent since 1949. However, he added that the necessity for NATO today is greater than it has ever been.
''Of course the alliance must change together with the times and adapt to the changes within the international security environment. We in Latvia support a strong NATO, an alliance which is capable of protecting its members states from threats - both from the east, and also from the south,'' he said.
At the same time, the minister said that Latvian participated in six different international operations last year with a total of 73 soldiers. He said that Latvia is also contributing to the fight against international terrorism by participating in the Inherent Resolve operation in Iraq against the Islamic State. Furthermore, he added that Latvia continues its participation in various NATO and EU rapid reaction forces.
''The defense of our nation is in our hands, and we ourselves choose our strategic partners. We are not just a part of the world's strongest military alliance, but our main strategic partner is the strongest military partner in the world,'' he said.
The minister also said that Latvia is not interested in increasing the army of EU bureaucrats, but would like to see strengthen cooperation between the EU and NATO, which could together counter hybrid threats, cyber security threats, improve security on the seas, and other activities.
The Latvian parliament today is holding its annual foreign policy debate in which the lawmakers discuss also the annual foreign policy report prepared by Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics.