Center for Strategic Decision Research


Baltic Security Beyond Madrid

His Excellency Dr. Valdis Birkavs
Foreign Minister of Latvia


In the time since the XIIIth NATO Workshop in Warsaw, we have witnessed a number of positive achievements in the transatlantic community. Word has it that three countries have now been designated for membership in NATO. I hope that I am not jumping the gun by extending my congratulations here in Prague to the Czech people for their hard work, which is expected to bring them good news in Madrid. The Castle in Prague, where we meet, was once home to Rudolf II, royal craftsmen, and astronomers, and reminds us how a creative process can be pushed forward by enlightened patrons. What a pleasure to discuss our future security with this spirit around us!


We in Latvia support and applaud the choices of countries to be offered NATO membership--at a minimum Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. We do this not only out of decency or sportsmanship but with the knowledge that our friends in Central Europe are concerned, as we are, in the way the Madrid Summit documents will incorporate and address Baltic concerns.

We feel sure that Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles are interested in the fate of Latvians, Estonians, and Lithuanians. We believe they share our concerns about living in an undefined security space. Because we all have experienced what can happen in a divided and improperly integrated Europe, we believe that in Brussels the three new Allies will be natural advocates for the Baltic States. As I see it, at least three new members will be part of the first step toward building an undivided Europe, a step to be later taken by three Baltic States.


There are three points relating to Latvia that I would like to discuss: first, the unequivocal European orientation of Latvia's foreign and security policy; second, regional cooperation; and third, the way forward after Madrid.

With the full backing of parliament, Latvia has agreed to make the supreme aim of our country the realization of full-fledged membership in the European Union and NATO. During my tenure as a Latvian leader, I have strived to realize these goals. But if I thought that going the distance would be like Zeno's paradox--or "moving the goal posts"--then I would not be advising this course for my country. I am convinced, however, from what you, my colleagues in the Alliance, have told me in confidence, that these goals are within reach and that the goal posts are securely fastened. I am certain that forthcoming Latvian governments will also continue to pursue Euro-Atlantic integration with strong support from the electorate.

Regional Cooperation

The deepest and tightest cooperation and the most animated dialogue among the Baltic States is on questions of security in the broader Baltic region. Solidarity among the Baltic States is an imperative resulting from our common history and our common geostrategic and geopolitical situation. Three successful projects that have fostered regional cooperation in the field of security are the Baltic peacekeeping battalion, BALTBAT, located in Latvia; the Baltic Naval Squadron, BALTRON, based in Estonia; and BALTNET, the regional airspace initiative, headquartered in Lithuania. The responsibilities for these projects have been equally divided among our countries.

Despite our solidarity, however, it is reasonable that our respective levels of preparedness to participate in the work of international organizations might be judged on the basis of our individual merits. We do not see anything detrimental in this approach. But it does mean that the doors to the North Atlantic Alliance must remain open until we have all successfully completed the requisite rites of passage and are invited to cross the threshold.

We welcome NATO's presence as it moves deeper into the Baltic region via Poland's accession. Poland's membership will definitely facilitate the Baltic States' integration into the Alliance because its cares and concerns are those of a neighbor. This is not only an issue of increasing NATO's geographic proximity to the Baltic States, it is also one of increasing its psychological proximity. The psychological component is strategically significant.

It should be noted that the Baltic States share an interest in promoting the strength of democratic institutions in Ukraine. The affinities and mutual interests of our countries were underlined in the Declaration of the Presidents of the Baltic States, Poland, and Ukraine in Tallinn on 27 May 1997, the same day the Founding Act was signed. Baltic membership in European institutions would also help tie Ukraine closer to Europe. These forms of regional cooperation, however, are of course not meant as substitutes for membership in NATO.

Madrid and the Way Ahead

The Summit in Madrid will name those Partners who will be invited to commence accession negotiations first. The Summit communiqué should also recognize the aspirations of those candidate countries that do not receive an invitation. For these aspirants, more effective mechanisms should be created for achieving membership on a fast track.

To NATO's leadership I say the following: Provide us with the certainty that an invitation will follow a successful effort at preparation; that is how to make the open-door policy a reality. When I seek domestic backing for increasing Latvia's participation in peacekeeping missions, for improving facilities for crisis management and border control, for acquiring vehicles and communication equipment for our soldiers, let NATO Allies help me in this work. In addition to encouraging words, they could offer clearer prospects for Baltic accession.

Because the Madrid Summit is only one step in the establishment of a new European and transatlantic security structure, other actions must follow. Latvia proposes that NATO take a series of steps after the Madrid Summit.

  • NATO should initiate enlargement consultations between Partner states and NATO; this would be a welcome sign that our concerns are being taken into account. To better focus these consultations, NATO should assess each applicant's performance, identifying the areas for additional work. Progress should be reviewed regularly at NAC meetings.
  • Alliance offices should be established in the capitals of aspirant countries that are willing to receive them. Latvia is ready today to act as host for such an office. We are ready to help to locate and fund premises and assist with support staff and technical equipment.
  • NATO should structure PFP activities so that they allow aspiring Partners to prepare for membership. Areas of special capability should be favorably recognized, for example, by an agreement to open certain areas of cooperation for further enhancement of overall NATO expertise.

I should note, however, that it is the results of PFP participation, not the process, that we are after. PFP activities are stepping stones on the path to NATO membership. Membership is the result. PFP is the process.

  • NATO should broaden Partners' roles in the planning and execution of PFP exercises and operations, including opportunities to contribute to such operations' political guidance and oversight. Latvia supports the formation of Partner Staff Elements inside appropriate headquarters where Partner officers could participate in "more than liaison but less than integration." Involvement of Latvian officers in the work of the prospective Joint Subregional Command Northeast would strengthen our ability to contribute to NATO's new missions.

Latvia welcomes the new level of dialogue mentioned in the Russia-NATO Founding Act. We also understand that cooperation between NATO and Russia can dispel past misunderstandings and forestall the creation of new ones. In this context it is important that the Alliance explicitly reject attempts to limit the scope of future enlargement.

I would also like to stress that Latvia has good-neighbor relations with Russia. For example, we have agreed on the Russian-Latvian territorial border and have developed a peaceful, conflict-free, democratic society during the last six years. For these reasons, Latvia neither threatens the interests of Russia now, nor would do so as a member of the Alliance.


The Madrid Summit should give the Baltic States and other aspirants clear prospects for achieving their goals of membership. Without us, Europe will never be whole. We also eagerly await the day when the Allies can act together to welcome new European members that deserve to be on board. Russia's voice at NATO is positive in that it ensures a wider perspective. However, Baltic State membership in NATO should never be used as a bargaining chip for greater cooperation with Russia.

Latvia's clear and repeatedly expressed commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration has not been enough to prepare us for accession during the first phase of enlargement. We do, however, expect to be part of the next phase. The commitment to Europe voiced so often by Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia has created an international moral and political debate that we anticipate will put an end to our state of limbo.

At the 13th NATO Workshop, I began my speech remarking on those countries whose fate regarding NATO had not yet been decided. I called such countries "the undecideds." Undecideds can go one way or another. But for Latvia, beyond Madrid, there is only one way we want to go. And that is toward full-fledged membership in the European Union and NATO.



Top of page | Home | ©2003 Center for Strategic Decision Research