Defence and Security Committee visits Latvia & Estonia, supports strong stance on Ukraine and defence & deterrence in NATO’s East

16 May 2022


Russia’s unprovoked and illegal war on Ukraine was never far from focus during the discussions on a recent Defence and Security Committee visit to Riga and Tallinn. As the war has upended peace and security in Europe, Allies have demonstrated strong resolve to not only support Ukraine’s valiant defence efforts, but also to have the forces and plans in place to defend all Allied territory and populations. 

Throughout the visit, Latvian and Estonian officials were united in their message of strong solidarity with Ukraine. They also advocated to bolster defence capabilities not only across the Baltics, but all along the NATO’s eastern flank to repel any attack on Allied territory. 

One official sounded a clarion call to the delegation: “Ukraine is fighting this war for all of us. We cannot lose this war. Otherwise, Russia will not stop. We know this for sure. While you did not heed our warnings in the past, please do so today.” 

Officials were also united in their calls for two key actions by Allies to best position Ukraine for victory: a maximisation of sanctions against Russia and an in increase in military support to Ukraine fit for purpose for the battles at hand. 

They stressed the necessity of significant reinforcement of Allied forces and capabilities in their own territories. All called for the revision of Allies’ current ‘trip wire’ defence posture, which would require Allies to surge reinforcements to the region to push back invading forces. As one speaker noted: “The ‘trip wire’ concept for the defence of Allies’ eastern territories is no longer sustainable – not a single square meter of Allied territory can be overtaken. We must defend every bit of our lands from day one with a new ‘forward defence’ concept.” 

Allies have been reviewing and adapting their defence posture both before and after the outbreak of the war. The surge of new forces and capabilities to NATO’s eastern flank was on full display during the delegation’s visit to NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup stationed at Ādaži military base outside of Riga. Allied forces on the base have doubled in the last couple months to about 5,500, paralleling troop surges and new battlegroup formations all along NATO’s eastern flank. The delegation also visited Lielvãrde air base in Latvia, which plays a key role for Allied air assets in the region. In a strong display of transatlantic solidarity, US support of NATO eastern flank reinforcement has been critical since Russia’s intentions in Ukraine became clear. The United States now has over 105,000 troops stationed across Europe, the most since 2005. 

The potential NATO membership bids by Finland and Sweden also shaped discussions during the visit, especially after the 12 May joint statement by Finnish President and Prime Minister on Finland’s desire to apply for NATO membership. If the two countries decide to submit applications, and if these applications are accepted by NATO members states and parliaments, Finland and Sweden would significantly reinforce regional and Allied security, all interlocutors stressed. 

The parliamentarians also engaged in discussions with officials on the significant decisions to be made at the upcoming Madrid NATO Summit in June. Substantial new measures to reinforce Allied defence and deterrence posture from the Baltic to the Black Seas are expected to be among them. In addition, Allies will also adopt a new Strategic Concept, which will not only likely signal a renewed emphasis on collective defence efforts, but also reassess Allies’ understanding of the threat Russia poses to broader Allied security. 

The new Strategic Concept will also reflect Allies’ views of the increasingly complex international security environment. Allies face significant challenges in addition to the acute current threat from Russia. China’s rise and antagonism to the rules-based international order has forced Allies to move China to the centre of their collective agenda. Both Russia and China have exploited cyber space and utilised other hybrid means to undermine Allied interests and are racing to integrate new disruptive technologies to usurp Allies’ leading edge in technological innovation. 

To better understand these challenges, the visit included briefings by government and industry experts as well as the NATO-accredited Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence.

The delegation from the Sub-Committee on the Future Security and Defence Capabilities (DSCFC) consisted of 22 members of parliament from 11 Allied nations as well as Finland and Sweden. DSCFC Vice-Chairman, Andreas Loverdos (Greece), led the delegation. 

The visit’s findings will be elaborated in a forthcoming mission report and feed into the four reports of the Defence and Security Committee’s 2022 work programme. The first draft reports will be discussed at the Assembly’s upcoming Spring Session in Vilnius, Lithuania on 27-30 May.

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