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WARSAW — Latvia’s top military chief, Lt. Gen. Raimonds Graube, announced plans to acquire Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from the US.

The amount of weapons Latvia will purchas and the contract’s value are yet to be determined, Graube said, as quoted by local broadcaster LSM.

"It depends on the budget," Graube said. "If everything will go according to the plan, negotiations will begin next year."

The move comes shortly after Latvian Defense Minister Raimonds Bergmanis announced plans to raise the country’s military expenditure to 2 percent of its gross domestic product by 2018. The spending boost comes as a response to Russia’s increased military presence in Eastern Europe and its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

"Defense expenditure is the first indicator that determines whether a state takes seriously threats to its safety, and whether it cares about the well-being of its citizens,” Bergmanis said Aug. 3, as quoted in a statement by the Latvian Defense Ministry. "I am committed to gradually increase the defense budget."

The military commander said air defense is Latvia’s weak spot and the planned acquisition is expected to improve the country’s military capability in this field.

Under the plan, the weapons will be deployed to the military base in Adazi, in close proximity of Latvia’s capital Riga.

The Stingers could become integrated into a project to set up a midrange air defense system that would be jointly operated by the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Email: jadamowski@defensenews.com

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