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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

II. Country Assessment--Latvia


U.S. Government Assistance to and Cooperative Activities with Central and Eastern Europe
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
January 2007
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Country Overview

Country Facts

  • Map of LatviaArea: 24,938 sq mi (64,589 sq km), slightly larger than West Virginia 
  • Population: 2,274,735 (July 2006 est.) 
  • Population Growth Rate: -0.67% (2006 est.) 
  • Life Expectancy: Male 66.08 yrs., Female 76.85 yrs. (2006 est.)
  • Infant Mortality: 9.35 deaths/1,000 live births 
  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP): $30.29 billion (purchasing power parity; 2005 est.)
  • GDP Per Capita Income: $13,200 (purchasing power parity; 2005 est.) 
  • Real GDP Growth: 10.29% (2005 est.)

Overview of U.S. Government Assistance

In FY 2006, the USG provided an estimated $9.19 million in assistance to Latvia, including:

  • $0.86 million in democratic reform programs; 
  • $0.39 million in economic reform programs; 
  • $0.11 million in humanitarian programs; and 
  • $7.83 million in security, regional stability, and law enforcement programs.

The last year for new SEED bilateral funding to Latvia was FY 1999, although some additional SEED funds for Public Diplomacy and Democracy Commission grants were provided through FY 2003. Other forms of U.S. Government (USG) assistance to Latvia continued through FY 2006. In addition, some activities funded through SEED funding from prior fiscal years continued in FY 2006.

FY 2006 Assistance Overview

U.S. STRATEGIC INTERESTS & FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES

Two plus years into NATO and European Union (EU) membership, Latvia has emerged as a significant international player despite its modest population and resource base. Per capita, it is one of the largest contributors to international military operations and Latvia stands out as a successful post-Soviet transition society. Strong memories of occupation and oppression motivate Latvia to reach out to countries near and far struggling to move beyond authoritarian politics and state-controlled economies. Latvia's support for pro-market, pro-free trade policies is important to the U.S., especially in European and international organizations. Latvia had the European Union's fastest growing economy in each of the last two years and the European Commission has forecast it will be again in 2006. Combined, these political and economic trends strengthened the potential impact of the U.S.-Latvian partnership in promoting freedom, democracy, and market-based prosperity worldwide.

FOREIGN ASSISTANCE PRIORITIES

Latvia's ability to export freedom and prosperity to its neighbors rests on a strong democracy and civil society at home, as well as the ability to confront impediments to Latvia's progress such as crime and corruption. Thus, USG assistance has supported improvement in Latvia's law enforcement and military capabilities. Latvia continues to receive significant allocations of military-related assistance, which is an essential tool in the development of modern, deployable, fully NATO-interoperable Latvian forces. General socio-economic development assistance to Latvia has phased out, though some funds authorized in prior years are still being expended to assist police and border control development.

OPERATING ENVIRONMENT

Latvia's strong economic growth continued, with real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) up 12% in the first half of 2006 - by far the fastest growth rate since Latvia regained its independence in 1991. However, in per capita GDP Latvia remained among the poorest EU member states. October elections returned Prime Minister Kalvitis to power, the first time that a government has survived an election since Latvia regained independence. Preliminary indications show that segmented voting along ethnic lines eroded, with more cross-over voting for parties generally considered based in either Latvian or Russian ethnic communities. In addition, many more ethnic Russians voted for the moderate Russian party than the more hard-line group which previously held many more seats in the Parliament than did its more moderate competitor. Latvia continues to be successful economically and stable politically, therefore substantiating the focus of assistance on security, both police and military. Latvia's corruption rating is quite low in published international scales, though organized crime with Russian links is a persistent problem.

FY 2006 Country Program Performance

Peace and Security

Latvia has developed a policy of international security co-operation through participation in crisis management and peacekeeping operations. Latvia deployed over 330 personnel during the course of FY 2006 to support United Nations (UN), NATO, and coalition military operations, and is expected to increase its commitment in FY 2007. That number represents over 10% of Latvia's active duty military, well above the European average in terms of per capita contributions, and is a good indication of Latvia's willingness and ability to contribute to global security. In 2007, Latvia expects to nearly double participation in Afghanistan, sending over 120 soldiers to take part in the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation there. In 2006, a total of 240 Latvian soldiers served in Iraq. Latvia reauthorized the deployment through 2007. Latvia continues to support the NATO mission in Kosovo with 20 peacekeepers, and with liaison officers in the European Union Force (EUFOR) mission in Bosnia and the peacekeeping mission in Georgia. These deployments have become more complex operationally as the Latvian National Armed Forces (LNAF) demonstrates increasing readiness and growing interoperability with coalition forces. Continuing participation in NATO exercises, as well as active involvement in Marshall Center courses and seminars have accelerated Latvia's integration into NATO structures and programs.

Latvia's government places high priority on improving law enforcement and border control, given the country's special responsibilities as part of the EU's eastern border. Latvia hopes to be able to join the Schengen group of EU countries that have no border controls among them, which would require considerable improvement in these areas. Latvia has also worked actively with the U.S. government on key regional law enforcement priorities, including cyber-crime, money laundering, and trafficking in persons. Results in terms of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions continue to be weaker than they should be, however. Corruption and organized crime also are still problems areas in Latvia.

U.S. ASSISTANCE PRIORITIES

The first priority for USG assistance to Latvia is continued support for the professional development of the Latvian defense system. These efforts work to ensure that Latvia continues to support positions in key Euro-Atlantic organizations that are in line with U.S. interests. They also further strengthen Latvia's response in the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Assistance which promoted military professionalism, particularly in the Non-Commissioned Officer Corps, allows Latvia to deploy troops that possess the skills needed in today's coalition-led environment. USG assistance plays a tangible role in helping the Latvian military expand its ability to participate in the War on Terror and promote regional security.

USG assistance focuses on increasing the capability of Latvia's Anti-Corruption Bureau and internal security forces to develop information on international organized crime groups operating in Latvia and improving its ability to generate arrests and convictions. In addition, USG programs work to improve Latvian investigation of trafficking in persons (TIP) and authorities' interaction with trafficking victims. Other USG programs are designed to improve Latvian authorities' understanding of money laundering and terrorist financing techniques and means of investigating it.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES

In FY 2006, USG assistance programs in Latvia promoted military professionalism within the Ministry of Defense (MOD) and LNAF by providing training otherwise unavailable in Latvia. Other USG funds were used to purchase equipment, training, and services that increased Latvia's military professionalism and self-defense capabilities, and ensured interoperability with NATO and coalition structures and forces. These funds enhanced an entire network of standardized, secure-mode capable, NATO-interoperable command and control systems from the national/strategic level to the tactical level, thereby improving Latvia's training capability, increasing the LNAF and Home Guard's capability to respond to natural disasters or man-made emergencies, and acquiring NATO-interoperable tactical wheeled vehicles.

In its final year of implementation, USG assistance targeting border security provided training and donated equipment to customs and border guard personnel to improve their capacity to secure and interdict, particularly weapons of mass destruction. Additional USG assistance provided surveillance equipment to appropriate authorities in order to fight organized crime and money laundering by improving their ability to gather information and provide better basis for prosecution and conviction.

OUTPUTS

USG programs trained 65 Latvian military and defense associated personnel in the U.S. These efforts helped Latvia work toward its goals of increased military professionalism, self-defense capability, NATO interoperability, and developing well-trained deployable forces for NATO and coalition operations. Latvia participated in training on three levels: the national/strategic level, with the priority on attendance at war colleges, the Naval Post-Graduate School, and the Defense Resource Management Institute; the operational level, where assistance focused on staff colleges, executive courses, and mobile training teams; and, the tactical level, where courses consisted of specialized training for junior officers (career courses and NCO development courses). Expanded education courses continued to provide critical training for defense policy and resource planners at the MOD.

Also in FY 2006, USG funds supported tactical communications systems including: armored HMMWV acquisitions and Night Vision Goggles for Latvia's Infantry Brigade; Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (MILES) gear for the Training Center; Miniaturized Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) Robots for the EOD School, Anthrax Vaccines, Chemical Detectors, and NBC protective gear for deploying forces; three Weather and Search and Rescue Radar systems for the Air and Maritime Forces; and a tactical data network system for the Joint Operations Center (JOC).

Equipment provided by the USG to State border guard and customs services included hand held radiation detection equipment, contraband detection equipment, night vision goggles, and "side by side" ATVs. The USG also trained 55 Latvian officials, primarily from the border guard and customs service, but also from police, port administrators and the coast guard. These trainings were conducted in Riga and the U.S. at designated ports of entry and border crossings, and focused on cyber crime investigation, international seaport and rail interdiction, and combating WMD in maritime ports.

PROGRAM PERFORMANCE/IMPACT

USG assistance supported the deployment of highly trained, proficient, and competent Latvian units to support coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and stability missions in the Balkans. Latvian soldiers fight along with U.S. and NATO-led forces across a broad-spectrum, from infantry support stationed with a Coalition Division in Diwaniyeh to EOD experts de-fusing IED's in Baghdad to staff officers in support of multinational headquarters. Latvia expanded its involvement to include units with specialized capabilities, such as EOD teams in Iraq and peace keeping units in Bosnia and Kosovo.

USG equipment donations and training enhanced the capabilities and professionalism of the Latvian agencies that control the country's border crossings, particularly in their ability to detect and prevent the entry of material that could be used to crate weapons of mass destruction. In the lead up to the NATO summit, these agencies played a key front line role in ensuring the security of this major event and did an excellent job. USG-provided tactical communications systems are being used effectively. One example is during the November NATO Summit, where the Latvian National Command Authorities demonstrated the ability to integrate command and coordinate air, maritime, ground, police and border units from the strategic to the tactical level, and to tie that integration in with USAREUR, USAFE, and NATO Response Force elements.

FY 2006 Funds Budgeted for U.S. Government Assistance to Latvia [PDF format]



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