On 11-12 May 2023, members of the Security and Defence Committee of the Baltic Assembly met in Riga to discuss security cooperation of the Baltic States and the challenges in the region caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Member of the Security and Defence Committee of the Baltic Assembly Anti Poolamets opened the meeting by highlighting that the Russian war against Ukraine and other aggressive activities of this regime has become an everyday reality. He emphasized that this new reality motivates the Baltic States to increase their defence capabilities and also cooperate to speed up this process. "Meanwhile, it is never enough to remind ourselves that peace in the Baltic States and the whole of Europe is closely connected with stopping the Russian invasion. Ukrainian soldiers are fighting for freedom and democracy in their country. We have to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to put a stop to the violence of the Russian regime in Ukraine, our countries, and beyond," said Anti Poolamets.
Researcher at the Department of Political and Strategic Studies of the Baltic Defence College Dr Viljar Veebel continued by informing the parliamentarians about the importance of creating a joint Baltic operational area and its role in ensuring effective use of allied assistance. He emphasized that the risks are similar to all of the Baltic States, as well as the allies and partners for the Baltic States are the same, therefore, there is a need for a united voice, especially when talking to the partners.
Director of the Department for International Co-Operation of the Ministry of Defence of Estonia Peeter Kuimet reminded that the progress advancement should be built on 30 years of successful cooperation, demonstrating a desire to elevate it to new strategic levels. He highlighted that the development of long-range capabilities in the Baltic States will be the process' driving force. He added that for this process to be successful, there needs to be regular information exchange between the Baltic States, complementary to NATO.
During the first session of the meeting, the parliamentarians, government representatives, and experts discussed the security cooperation in the Baltic States and the need for the creation of a successful joint operations area in the Baltic to address present and upcoming security concerns in the region.
President of the Benelux Parlement Pim Van Ballekom informed about the experience in defence cooperation of the Benelux countries. He reminded everyone that defence cooperation is a new common priority. In the "Decision on priorities of cooperation between the Baltic Assembly and Benelux Parliament", signed on 10 December 2021, "defence and security cooperation" was identified as a topic that both inter-parliamentary assemblies would examine in 2022 and 2023.
The meeting of the Security and Defence Committee of the Baltic Assembly continued with a discussion about the whole-of-society approach to Baltic security and what it means to go beyond the traditional military realm.
Chair of the meeting Anti Poolamets introduced the topic highlighting that the Russian war in Ukraine has reassured the Baltic States that it is necessary to prepare for military and also hybrid threats. "In short, the whole-of-society approach to regional security means going beyond the traditional military realm and involving also people, information systems, culture, politics, economics, and infrastructure to increase our resilience," said Anti Poolamets.
Senior Researcher at the National Defence Academy of Latvia Dr Ieva Bērziņa emphasized that a significant part of society should be included in the national defence because it lowers the cost of an attack and increases the likelihood of maintaining state sovereignty. She said that enhancing and synchronizing comprehensive national defence thinking at the level of the Baltic States is possible and would be beneficial for the region.
Representatives of the Baltic governments, however, informed the parliamentarians about the level of cooperation that is based on trust and regular exchange of information. The parliamentarians called for closer cooperation of the Baltic States in the implementation of the whole-of-society approach to regional security.
© Photos by Saeima (author: Reinis Inkēns)