Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical challenges, there is a steady strengthening of military capabilities in our region. At the same time, investments in the security environment are gradually being reported by several European Union and NATO member states. But what defense trends in general are marked by COVID-19, explains Kristiāns Brēdermanis, the head of the military equipment manufacturing company “SRC Brasa”.
In accordance with NATO standards, Latvia continues to maintain the growth of previous years, allocating the necessary funds to defense infrastructure and the development of the sector. The whole Alliance is working purposefully on a balanced budget, which is vital for the security environment to implement a long-term strategy. An internationally balanced balance of power helps to avoid a situation where the world is dominated by one player and other threats. However, investments are an essential precondition for an effective collective planning process and comprehensive capacity building. Although less than half of NATO members currently spend at least 2% of GDP on defense, the Alliance reports progress on a milestone on the part of two members.
The European military power France, which will reach 2.1% this year, and Norway. Strong economies, on the other hand, such as Germany and Italy, are still 1.5% behind.
But as security in the world does not remain more stable, non-NATO partners plan to invest heavily in the future to meet the defense challenge of counteracting potential threats and growing risks. The demonstration will be presented in a joint step with Norway by the neighboring Scandinavian country of Sweden, which will increase defense spending by 40% over the next four years. This is a significant percentage increase even for a highly developed economy, characterized by a € 2.6 billion addition to the sector’s budget. Thus, in synergy with Poland and the Scandinavian region, the Baltics maintain a consistent position according to geographical location. And the prediction made earlier that the COVID-19 pandemic could have a significant impact on the defense and military industries is, for the time being, premature.
One of the reasons why NATO nations and Allies are paying more attention to investing in capability development is the hitherto over-reliance on US defense capabilities, which determines the unpredictable outcome of each presidential election.
This attitude is linked to statements by US officials that the “red card” has been awarded to countries that do not review the development of military capabilities or ignore the lack of participation in the issue of funding. In parallel with the ultimatum, the United States‘ desire to build muscle to continue competing with two military heavyweights: Russia and China, is not disappearing. In the global context, we can expect the most significant changes in the military field from these giants, as both countries face unpredictable challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. It would be important to emphasize here that reliable figures on Russian and Chinese spending will not be available in the foreseeable future, so official data is the only yardstick by which we can analyze each country’s capabilities. However, if we look at the defense budget, which is not calculated as a percentage of GDP, the economically uncertain impact of the pandemic could be shocking.
From this common picture, it is perfectly understandable that countries are paying increasing attention to the presence of military force, making it a priority. The geopolitical situation also requires the involvement of the European Union and NATO member states. The first signal that a large part of the public no longer thinks about today was the aggression in eastern Ukraine. And this list is still compounded by internationally known conflicts in other regions. In almost all cases, the effectiveness of diplomatic instruments does not live up to initial expectations, as the two sides do not reach a common compromise. Instead, the alternative of mobilizing protection and deterrence capabilities through the coordination of partners for transnational projects is chosen.
The Baltic States are a strategically important player not only in the European Union, but also in NATO. Therefore, while maintaining the set funding in the defense sector, Latvia must choose a specific development direction in perspective. Given the challenges of COVID-19, local companies developing value-added products have a key role to play in strengthening a comprehensive national defense system.
Our involvement in cooperation with neighboring countries will fulfill the region’s long-term strategy, which is currently a recognized trend in the world. This is evidenced, for example, by the French recovery plan, which gives local businesses a vital role in overcoming the pandemic crisis. We need to think similarly, because only the public sector, together with the private sector, will successfully develop resilience to cyber-attacks and any security risks.