At the moment, Europe is facing true security challenges from the East and the South. Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and the continuing encroachment of Daesh/ISIL in the Middle East are threats of a similar magnitude. The change in the security environment has driven Latvia and other countries of Europe to devote increased attention to security policy and the strengthening of defence capabilities on the national and international levels. Membership in NATO and the European Union play a decisive role in Latvia’s security policy, and Latvia is actively engaged in these organisations and bilaterally with its allies in order to bolster its own security and the security of the surrounding region.
From Latvia’s perspective, an integral part of any successful policy of deterrence is the Allied military presence in Latvia. In this regard, the most important task in Latvia’s foreign policy from the standpoint of external security is in making arrangements that result in an Allied military presence within Latvian territory that will be extended over the long-term, thereby also ensuring that the defence of every member state against any and all threats. Not less important is the task of increasing the capabilities of the NATO rapid reaction forces so that they will be able to assist all member states in case of a crisis. Latvia highly values the increase in the NATO Response Force (NRF) to 40,000 troops of which 5,000 form the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) that are ready to respond in a few days’ time. Latvia is one of six members of the Alliance in which NATO Force Integration Units (NFIUs) have been established, and these units, if the necessity were to arise, would be instrumental in facilitating the rapid deployment of military combat forces and ensure that such forces can operate effectively on Latvia’s land and sea and in the air. At the same time, the NFIUs allow the entire region to implement a coordinated program for military exercises.
It is true that first and foremost, each country is responsible for its own defence. In this light, certain Latvian institutions are tasked with strengthening their country’s defence capabilities and improving mutual cooperation on preventing threats. Latvia’s commitment to increase its defence spending to 2 percent of its GDP by 2018 is a key element in the fulfilment of such responsibilities.
The combination of military and non-military threats referred to as “hybrid threats” has a major impact on security environment. In this case, in order to destabilise a state and society, not only direct military means are employed but other elements as well. These may include cyber-attacks, disinformation and propaganda campaigns, intelligence operations, the application of coercion ranging from economic pressure to the leverage using energy supplies as an instrument, the use of disguised military personnel, and the use of terrorists and armed groups as proxies for various kinds of attacks, to mention a few.
The methods of hybrid warfare can be used independently or in combination with conventional military attacks. Latvia also actively contributes to NATO and EU efforts to seek the most effective solutions to counter hybrid threats, including in the information space.
To contribute specifically to the development of NATO capabilities in the information space and its analysis, Latvia has established the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.
NATO Wales Summit Declaration: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_112964.htm
NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence: http://www.stratcomcoe.org/
The NATO website: http://www.nato.int/
Website of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia: http://www.mod.gov.lv/en.aspx