Minister of Defense Hanno Pevkur (Reform) set out on Monday the initial steps in a joint Estonian-Latvian mid-range air defense systems procurement, joined by his Latvian opposite number.
The procurement follows the announcement that Estonia will be buying, in a separate, US$500-million procurement, six M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers and related equipment.
Around half-a-dozen defense firms are in the picture for the planned Estonian-Latvian deal, which Estonia is spearheading.
Speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) Monday following a meeting in Riga with his Latvian counterpart, Artis Pabriks, Pevkur said: "My colleague and I agreed today that Estonia will lead the process from the technical side via our Center for Defense Investment (RKK) . That said, it is vital that both governments keep more or less the same pace on this."
The two countries opted to go ahead with the procurement in late June, while their governments will need to make decisions on the scale of the tender – which the Estonian minister said would be discussed at cabinet level "in the coming weeks"
"Let's say that Latvia more-or-less has its own understanding, and we have our understanding of the scale of the capability we would need, so far as the scope of protection is concerned," he continued.
"The other aspect concerns which system to adopt. There are five to seven potential manufacturers worldwide, and we have to make that choice between them," he added.
Pevkur also noted via a ministry press release the priority given to the HIMARS acquisition, and a planned tripartite defensive cooperation agreement with Lithuania as well as with Latvia.
The close cooperation between the three Baltic states will only strengthen with this," he said.
The implementation of decisions made at June's NATO summit in Madrid and aid to Ukraine in its conflict with Russia were also discussed, as was Estonia's experience with its reservist and conscription, and the importance of both as a pillar of the country's independent defense capability.
Latvia decided last month to reinstate conscription, in light of the deteriorating security situation in the region.
As a ceremonial aside, the two defense ministers laid wreaths at the statue of the first commander-in-chief of the Latvian army, Col. Oskars Kalpaks (1882-1919), in the Latvian capital.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael