WARSAW — Following a meeting in Vilnius, Latvia’s and Lithuania’s defense ministers have announced plans to increase their countries’ military spending — to 2 percent and 1.5 percent of their gross domestic products, respectively, local broadcaster LSM reports.
Latvian Defensce Minister Raimonds Bergmanis said that he and his Lithuanian counterpart, Juozas Olekas, also discussed sending Latvian military instructors to Ukraine to assist with training in support of that government’s battle against Russia-backed insurgents in the country’s east. Lithuania already has deployed military instructors to Ukraine.
Commenting on Latvia’s plan to raise its defense expenditure, Bergmanis said he hoped his country will "be able to take great strides ahead just like our neighbors did."
Under the plan, Riga is to increase its defense spending to 2 percent of its GDP by 2018, the Latvian Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Other issues discussed by the two officials during a recent meeting included a project to set up a mid-range air defense system to be jointly operated by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
At the meeting, Olekas said some of the major areas for improving defense cooperation between the Baltic states include "countering hybrid threats and stepping up cooperation with Poland and the Nordic countries," according to a statement released by the Lithuanian Defence Ministry.
The meeting in Vilnius marked Bergmanis’ first foreign visit in his capacity as defence minister. He was appointed to head the ministry by the country’s parliament earlier this month, replacing Raimonds Vejonis, who was elected Latvia’s president. Both politicians are from the co-ruling Latvian Green Party.