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Latvian defense chief: NATO should set up joint forces command in Baltics

RIGA - Although there are NATO battalions in the Baltics, the region's security still has to be improved by developing military infrastructure, setting up a joint forces command in the Baltics and boosting U.S. military presence, the Latvian Chief of Defense, Lt. Gen. Raimonds Graube said.

First of all, to receive assistance from NATO in case of an emergency, it is necessary to keep developing logistics infrastructure of all kinds, particularly airfields and ports. The development of the military airfield in Lielvarde is especially important in that context, the Latvian chief of defense said at the CEPA meeting in an interview with BNS, also stressing the necessity to develop ports.

Secondly, Graube has called for the creation of a NATO command structure in charge of the Baltics. The Latvian Defense Ministry and the National Armed Forces are already working on this, he said. If in a crisis situation the Baltic states get isolated from the rest of NATO countries, it is necessary to ensure an effective command of the armed forces.

NATO's Force Integration Units have been operating in the Baltic states for a couple of years already, but they only perform coordinating functions. These units are not made to lead defense operations as they can only coordinate preparations for allied forces' arrival. A joint forces command would be very important to Latvia, Graube said.

The Latvian chief of defense said he believes that in case of a military crisis the Baltic states have to be united. Decisions on NATO battlegroups' movements must not be taken on the national-level. If a conflict breaks out in a Baltic state it will not affect only this country but the region and the alliance in general.

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