Outgoing Defense Minister Asks Balts to Increase Defense Spending
"Knowing and respecting your country’s political choices and unique domestic challenges, I nevertheless take this opportunity to call on you to look into the possibility of increasing the defence budget [...] with a renewed concern. Low levels of defence expenditure directly affect the security of our region and limit the influence we can impose during the debates on deterrence posture in NATO. As NATO is hopefully starting to focus more on collective defence, we in the region need to send a strong signal that we ourselves take defence more seriously than most," Reinsalu wrote.
Latvia and Lithuania have spent in the neighborhood of 1.4 percent in recent years. The new coalition in Estonia has said it will maintain spending at 2 percent.
Latvia Announces Increases
More immediate changes are already in motion. Latvian Defense Minister Raimond Veionis said Latvia is planning to increase the size of its professional armed forces, and the voluntary home guard, Zemessardze.
The professional army will increase by 1,000 soldiers to 6,000, rus.delfi.lv reported today. Latvia abolished conscription in 2006.
Veionis said the move comes in light of the changing security situation. Zemessardze numbers are expected to increase to 8,000, from the current 5,000.
Finland Electorate Would Join NATO
A poll conducted from March 11-22 by TNS Gallup and commissioned by Verkkouutiset and Nykypäiva found that 53 percent of Finns would be in favor of joining NATO if their leadership decided accordingly. Only 34 percent were against and 12 percent were undecided.