Country Overview U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND FOREIGN ASSISTANCE OBJECTIVES & PRIORITIES
As a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU) for over three years, Latvia has emerged as a significant international player, courageously supporting peace and democracy world-wide. Per capita, it is one of the largest contributors to international military operations. It has deployed troops to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Balkans. It also works closely with the U.S. and the EU to support and promote democracy in the former Soviet Union states of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, and Georgia. A testament to the close relationship between the U.S. and Latvia is the fact that President Bush has visited the country twice, the second time to attend the NATO Summit held in Riga on November 28-29, 2006.
The highest priority for U.S. assistance to Latvia is continued support for the professional development of the Latvian Armed Forces, Ministry of Defense, and border security agencies. These efforts work to ensure that Latvia continues to support key Euro-Atlantic Alliances and organizations that are in line with U.S. interests and strengthens Latvia's capability to respond in the War on Terror. Assistance which promotes professionalism, particularly among the non-commissioned officer corps, allows Latvia to deploy troops possessing the skills necessary for coalition warfare. Latvia has demonstrated tremendous potential and willingness in this regard, deploying more than 10% of her armed forces to Afghanistan and Iraq, and participating in peacekeeping missions in Kosovo and Bosnia. Latvia is continuing to develop its capability to secure one of the most difficult border areas in the EU.OPERATING ENVIRONMENT
Latvia experienced accelerating inflation in 2007, with both prices of goods and wages of workers increasing at levels not seen since the mid 1990’s. Given increased local prices for goods and services, USG assistance funding does not result in the same impact per U.S. dollar spent as in past years.
Concerns about official corruption increased the instability of the ruling governing coalition throughout 2007; however, neither official corruption nor the political instability has had an impact on the implementation or results of USG assistance programs. Latvia’s government and leading political figures remain staunch supporters of the United States and NATO.
FY 2007 Country Program PerformancePEACE AND SECURITY
USG funding to Latvia is important in building its capability to take part in NATO and U.S. led coalition operations. To assist Latvian defense reform efforts, USG funding is being used to develop a professional civilian and commissioned officers corps that supports democratic values, civilian control of the military, and adoption of doctrine, procedures, and training techniques consistent with the military forces of Western democracies.
FY 2007 funds supported high priority goals including the Regional Air Surveillance Coordination Center (RASCC)/Air Support Operations Center (ASOC), the Baltic Naval/De-mining Squadron (BALTRON), a NATO-compatible communications infrastructure, defense reform contractor services, the development of the national training center and English language training.
USG funding also supported six seminars, two trainings and a joint exercise to support coalition deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Additionally, the USG supported the Riga NATO summit and provided technical assistance and training in naval operations, international defense acquisition and human resources planning. USG funds were used to train 86 defense officials (72 trained in US and 14 trained at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies).
As its capabilities have increased, Latvia has boosted its participation in NATO and other international coalition deployments. At the beginning of 2007, Latvian armed forces were active in four international military operations: the NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, the operation managed by Coalition forces in Iraq and the operation managed by the EU in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The size of its forces contributing to such operations has also increased over time. In 1996 85 soldiers from Latvia had participated in international military operations, while by early FY 2007 310 were participating. GOVERNING JUSTLY AND DEMOCRATICALLY
A modest amount of USG assistance was implemented in FY 2007 to improve the rule of law in Latvian society and improve Latvia's ability to combat international organized crime and terrorist financing. As a means of focusing attention on rule of law and judicial transparency issues, USG funding assisted in convening in Riga in 2007 an international conference on judicial ethics, reform, and transparency. Over 200 people attended and the conference attracted notable persons such as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito; the Latvian President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, and Justice Minister; International law professors, and Justice Ministry officials from Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova, and Georgia.
The conference provided a forum for Latvian and international judicial professionals to meet and share best practices, and focused press attention on issues such as building public trust in the judiciary, the relationship of the judiciary with the press, managing judicial discipline, the role of sentencing in fighting corruption and the relationship between the judicial and legislative branches of government.