Baltics boost own military capacities and pledge to send arms to Ukraine as tension mounts

Baltics boost own military capacities and pledge to send arms to Ukraine as tension mounts
Ukrainian soliders using Javelin anti-armour missiles.
By Linas Jegelevicius in Vilnius January 21, 2022

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have pledged to offer Ukraine assistance, including in cyber security, in the face of Russian sabre rattling, and they are considering boosting their own defence spending further.

Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia can now transfer American-made lethal weapons, including anti-armour and ground-to-air missiles, to Ukraine. The US State Department has given the go-ahead after receiving the requests from the Baltic states in recent weeks, according to an official speaking off the record due to the issue not being yet announced publicly.

Under export control regulations in the United States, the three countries were first required to obtain approval from the State Department before transferring their weapons to Ukraine. The official did not specify the type of weapons that will be transferred.

In December, Peeter Kuimet, head of Estonia’s International Cooperation Department, said Tallinn was considering sending Ukraine its Javelin anti-armour missiles and 122-mm howitzers.

The same month, Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas also pledged to send lethal weapons to Ukraine. The minister, referring to the tense situation on the EU's eastern borders, called this week for additional US forces in the region.

"A step when the US will move additional forces to Europe is definitely awaiting us, because the situation requires it," he told reporters ahead of the cabinet's meeting on January 19.

Adding to the Russian troop build up around Ukraine, the Kremlin has now sent troops to Belarus for drills. The move came without the usual advance notice to countries in the region.

Lithuania also mulls a larger funding for defence, Anusauskas said.

Meanwhile, Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks said in an interview on Latvian Radio on January 20 that additional funds should be invested in Latvia's security, adding that specific plans would be presented next week.

Pabriks explained that he had already turned to Latvian President Egils Levits' office and Prime Minister Krisjanis Kariņs with an offer to consider additional investment in Latvian security – primarily in defence.

Pabriks has instructed the ministry to prepare precise plans "so that it is not a pie in the sky". The minister plans to submit a specific offer to the prime minister and the president next week.

Estonia will increase its defence spending by €380mn in the coming years to deal with both military and hybrid threats, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said.

Tensions in the region have grown to unprecedented levels and the government will make proposals to strengthen national defence, Kallas said in a political statement on January 19.