Cooperation in the Northern Region
And the Baltics
LatvianVice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Dr. Valdis Birkavs

Last year I addressed the 11th NATO Workshop posing this question: Will the Partnership for Peace (PFP) produce the kind of Baltic security we want to see at the end of this decade? One year later, the answer is still uncertain. Latvia continues to be concerned about two regional security issues: first, the pattern of regional cooperation, and second, the progress of efforts to integrate economically into the EU and to extend long-term security arrangements eastward.


Global cooperation stems from regional arrangements. A Baltic regional security setting must be analyzed in a broader context, both as a constituency of the European security architecture and as a contributor to global security and stability. The two basic institutions that shape the Atlantic relationship, NATO and the European Union, have adapted to the realities of the post-Cold War world. Today we speak about new roles and missions for NATO. The European Union now focuses on the political and economic dimensions of security in current circumstances, while European and Atlantic dimensions remain closely linked.

One circumstance that makes it possible to contribute and to strengthen the Euro-Atlantic community is the projection of the transatlantic dimension, namely, U.S. commitment to the security of Northern-Baltic Europe. This remains of fundamental importance. In the regional setting, the transatlantic dimension is provided through the new NATO.

A second circumstance that supports the Euro-Atlantic community is the emergence of a reinforced European security and defense identity through the EU and the Western European Union. Latvia's Associate Partner status in the WEU reflects our support.


At the NATO ministerial meeting in Istanbul, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher noted that Partnership for Peace was intended "to reassure new democracies and strengthen European security." PFP's objective is to promote both national and coalition efforts toward reform and collaboration.

On the national level, the Partnership process seeks to promote openness in defense planning and budgeting. On the coalition level, the Partnership has launched an effort to develop joint planning, training, and exercise initiatives in order to undertake a range of combined operations, including peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian relief.

The PFP program seeks to go beyond dialogue and cooperation--already achieved in the OSCE process--and forge a true security partnership. Such a partnership has already evolved among five Scandinavian countries and three Baltic States. This kind of horizontal cooperation within the PFP framework makes a substantial contribution to the development of military establishments in the Baltics.

Individual Partnership Programs specify activities in which a particular Partner nation intends to participate. In effect, each Partner develops a unique, independent program matching its participation, integration, and activity objectives. Among other initiatives, Latvia has proposed that several units be prepared for possible deployment in future peacekeeping operations. Those units are an infantry company, which is part of a reconnaissance landing force battalion; Latvian elements of the BALTBAT peacekeeping battalion; and units of our military medics services. These units are being trained and prepared and will be ready for operations as of the beginning of 1997. We expect that our endeavors for PFP will be useful and effective.


Currently, the Alliance is seeking to define what constitutes a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF). A single, unified vision is needed if we are to gear training, exercises, doctrine development, and combined operational procedures toward the objective of conducting coherent, multilateral actions. Therefore, we must focus future Alliance exercises on preparing the forces of potential participating nations--including Partners for Peace--for effective integration into CJTF.

From my perspective, a Combined Joint Task Force is both a process and a structure. As a process, it equips the Alliance to assemble and groom forces to operate together. As a structure, it provides a command and control architecture for NATO to direct and employ a combined operation. It enables NATO member-nations to deal effectively with issues that fall outside of the Alliance's traditional boundaries; moreover, it provides a mechanism through which both NATO and non-NATO nations can participate in expanded coalition activities.

The need for what CJTF offers is beyond dispute. It will transform existing NATO structures and processes to carry out the responsibilities outlined in the New Strategic Concept. Indeed, change is inevitable. But the real issue is how such change will take place. I believe that it will take place by implementing the CJTF concept, and that it is in this way that PFP offers the most promise for the future.

Ongoing discussion concerning the expansion of NATO, both among NATO nations and among PFP Partners, has already resulted in the proposal of several intermediary solutions, such as guaranties outside of NATO and associated status with NATO. Though we are prepared to cooperate in generating new ideas, we do not regard any proposed solutions thus far as a substitute for full NATO membership.


The challenge today is to create mechanisms and relationships that will provide the community of responsible nations with the means to promote stability, resolve conflicts, and shape the future. Both processes and structures that will enable the international community to work together are needed. While the most dramatic period is probably behind us, dynamic change is likely to continue for years to come. Collective action offers opportunities to find a way through the new complexities and to ensure overall geopolitical balance.

Go to Top of Page
Return to Dresden '95 Page
Return to Home Page