Latvian Chief of Defence Lieutenant-General Raimonds Graube has stated that a joint forces command should be set up in the Baltic states in order to strengthen the region's security. This would be in addition to augmenting the current US presence, he believes.
Speaking at a recent Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) meeting Raimonds pointed towards the development of the military airfield at Lielvārde, about 50km southeast of the Latvian capital, Riga, as a way to develop the logistics infrastructure to the degree that it is able to rapdly accomodate NATO aid at short notice. This would also be necessary with other airfields and indeed ports, he believes.
An effective NATO command structure is also needed in the eventuality that the Baltic States were to become isolated from the remaining NATO countries, he went on, something that Latvia's Ministry of Defence and armed forces are already working on, he says.
Although NATO troops have been present in the Baltic States for some years now, these have largely performed a coordinating role and are not sufficient to lead defence operations, but only lay the groundwork necessary for the arrival of more NATO boots on the ground, hence the need for a joint forces' command in Graube's view.
Underlying this is the need for the Baltic states to present a united front, including decisions on the movement of NATO battlegroups, and not to act in simple national self interest, according to Lieutenant-General Graube.
The region is in fact crucial to the NATO alliance and not just the three Baltic States and any conflict to break out in any one of the three states would have a major impact on the alliance's integrity, Graube believes.
Further discussions on Baltic security including the Baltic sea region are to take place this Friday, 8 June, when Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini meets with his Estonian counterpart Sven Mikser (SDE) in Tallinn, as well as members of the parliamentary (Riigikogu) foreign affairs committee.
Transatlantic relations, issues affecting the EU, and bilateral Estonian-Finnish relations will also be on the table.
Editor: Andrew Whyte