Exclusive interview of the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia Dr. Artis Pabriks
1. Would you please characterize current participation of Latvia in Baltic dimension of European security?
Latvia as a member of NATO and EU fully commits to the goals of these organisations and fully contributes to common efforts in the field of security. Latvia also focuses on the multilateral cooperation which adds value to joint efforts in strengthening European security. We have very well established cooperation between Baltic States. Baltic States commonly develop projects in the field of military education (BALTDEFCOL), air space control (BALTNET), naval cooperation (BALTRON). We have also established Baltic battalion, which will be able to participate in various NATO activities. All these efforts are in line of smart defence efforts thus contributing to common goals of European security.
2. How do you assess the state and prospects of the NATO policy in Afchanistan and participation of Latvia in it?
NATO policy in Afghanistan so far has been strongly focused on primary goal – to support Afghan ownership and to enable the Afghan National Security Forces to take responsibility over security in their country. We have stood by this commitment and today we see that Afghan forces are taking the lead for their own security. If ten years ago there were no Afghan National Security Forces, now around 350 000 strong Afghan Army and Police forces are at place and we have moved to the point where Afghans will be able to take full control and responsibility for their own security by the end of 2014. Of course, in order to maintain the achieved progress in Afghanistan, we have to continue our support to Afghan forces. In light of this Latvia is also committed to contribute our forces to the NATO efforts in Afghanistan beyond 2014 along with our allies and partners.
3. In this respect, to your mind, what are the certain successes of Latvian military and security cooperation in post-soviet area, especially in South Caucasus and Central Asia regions?
Over more than a decade Latvia has been security exporter to the South Caucasus and Central Asia regions where a real progress has been achieved. From our point of view we really understand a situation out of the traditional stereotypes in the former soviet countries.
Latvia sees Central Asian countries’ strategic importance in providing transit between Afghanistan and West and role in overall regional stability in the future. Latvia has developed its expertise in Central Asia region by having responsibility to be a NATO Point of contact in our Embassies in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Latvia is keen to engage with partner countries who share same values and aspirations, and assist them to develop their defence forces able to cooperate more closely with NATO and EU partners.
There has been an evidence of an excellent cooperation with Georgia on defence education so far. Latvia had offered to Georgia different training opportunities with closer cooperation and assistance between the National Defence Academies, English language training, training on explosive ordnance disposal in Adazi and divers training at the Latvian Naval training centre in Liepāja.