Foreign policy and defense
Latvia is a nation in Northern Europe. Its capital city is Riga. After independence in 1991, Latvia’s most important foreign policy goal was to gain membership in the NATO and EU defense alliance. Since this was implemented in 2004, the organizations have been an important part of Latvia’s foreign and security policy. The US has long been seen as the country’s foremost strategic partner – an important guarantor of Latvia’s security, while relations with Russia deteriorated again in connection with the crisis in Ukraine in 2014.
Latvia joined the Schengen cooperation in 2007 with the abolition of passport controls at the borders and during the first half of 2015 was the EU’s country of presidency for the first time. The Baltic States’ dialogue with NATO on membership was long hampered by resistance from Russia. In 2001, Moscow abandoned its resistance, since Russia’s relations with NATO were strengthened following the terrorist attacks in the United States that year.
- Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Latvia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations with Russia were strained for independence. After difficult negotiations for a few tense years, the last former Soviet troops left Latvia in August 1994. The Skrunda radar station was handed over to Latvia only in 1999. Moscow and Riga have been in conflict over the position of the Russian minority in Latvia (see Population and languages) and around Russia. the refusal to recognize the Soviet power in Latvia as an occupation. Moscow has also criticized the fact that Soviet but not Nazi war criminals have been brought to trial in Latvia.
Following lengthy negotiations, Russia and Latvia agreed on a border agreement in 1997, but Russia delayed the signing until 2007. In the agreement, Latvia released its demand to regain a small land area that ended up in Russia during the Soviet occupation. In 2010, the President of Latvia made an official visit to Moscow, the first of its kind in 15 years. Then, among other things, they agreed on a joint history commission to work on the difficult issues surrounding Soviet repression in Latvia.
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russian support for separatists in the war in eastern Ukraine, relations became more tense. On the Latvian side, there was a concern that Moscow would intervene in Latvia on the pretext of wanting to protect the Russian-speaking minority. Concern was fueled by Russian military exercises near the border. Latvia sought support in NATO; soldiers and military equipment were stationed in the country by major NATO countries. A “strategic communication center” was also set up in Riga together with seven NATO countries, including the Baltic neighboring countries. The center would counter what was perceived as a Russian information war against the Russian minority. In addition, the government decided that the defense budget should be increased from the current just over 1 percent to 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) from 2018.
The United States has long been seen as the country’s foremost strategic partner and an important guarantor of Latvia’s security. All governments in Riga have pursued a pro-American foreign policy, and Latvia supported the US-led invasions in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. Latvia also joined the Islamic State (IS) coalition in Iraq in the mid-2010s.
Latvia has close cooperation with Estonia and Lithuania, although relations have been disturbed by disagreement on, for example, sea borders in the Baltic Sea and energy issues. Latvia has good relations and extensive cooperation with the Nordic countries.
Following the liberation from the Soviet Union, Latvia has built up its own defense force with Nordic support. Since 2007, the country has a professional army. Latvia has participated in NATO-led operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Latvia has also participated in missions for the OSCE security organization, including in Ukraine, and EU police and civilian operations. Latvian personnel were also part of the UN force in Mali, which was formed in 2013.
FACTS – DEFENSE
Army: 1 250 men (2017)
The air Force: 310 men (2017)
The fleet: 550 men (2017)
Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 1.7 percent (2017)
Military spending’s share of the state budget: 4.5 percent (2017)
IMF program ends
GDP grew by just over 5 percent during the year. The budget deficit will be 3.5 percent, slightly less than the government’s estimate. Latvia can end the three-year loan program with the IMF in advance, after withdrawing only 4.5 billion of the 7.5 billion euros the country received from various lenders.
Banking goes bankrupt
The owner of Latvia’s savings bank, Krājbanka, is suspected to have swindled the bank on large sums.
Dombrovskis forms a new government
Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis forms his third government. The coalition consists of Dombrovsksi Party Unit, Zatler’s Reform Party and the National Alliance. With the six jumps from the Reform Party, the coalition has the backing of 56 of Parliament’s 100 seats. The winner of the election The Harmonic Center is placed outside the government.
MPs change party
Six members of Zatler’s Reform Party form their own party group.
New elections to Parliament
The Russian-dominated Harmonic Center wins the new election with 28.4 percent of the vote ahead of the newly formed Zatler Reform Party, which gets 20.8 percent. Prime Minister Dombrovski’s Unit declines to stay at 18.8 percent. The national alliance nearly doubles and gets almost 14 percent, while the Alliance of Greens and Peasants goes back to just over 12 percent. (17/9)
Zatler’s Reform Party is formed
Former President Zatlers forms a new political party, called the Zatler’s Reform Party, to run in the new parliamentary election that is scheduled for September.
Referendum on presidential decision
President Zatler’s request to dissolve Parliament is approved in a referendum with over 94 percent of the vote.
The formerly powerful Conservative People’s Party decides to dissolve it. Party leader and oligarch Andris Šķēle says to leave politics.
Election of new president
In the regular presidential election, Parliament votes Valdis Zatlers out of office. MP Andris Bērziņš of the League of Greens and Peasants is elected president with 53 votes to 41 for Zatlers.
Parliament is dissolved
President Zatlers decides to dissolve Parliament after refusing to waive the legal immunity of a corruption- suspected oligarch (see Current Policy). The anti-corruption agency Knab makes over 40 raids against the country’s three powerful oligarchs and their business operations. The suspicions apply to money laundering, tax evasion, bribery, abuse of power and more. The President’s decision shall be approved by referendum.