Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia intends to triple their annual spending on weapons and military equipment to $670 million by 2018, due to fears for Russia, because of the annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine, says a report by IHS Markit, according to Reuters.
According to the report, by 2020, the global combined defense budgets of the three Baltic republics will reach an estimated $2.1 billion, more than double the amount since the countries have joined NATO in 2004, making this the fastest rise of any region in the world.
‘We have seen a political confrontation between Russia and the West over the last two and a half years which escalated to military assertiveness, and we do not see that this will end soon,’ said Alex Kokcharov, Principal Analyst of the country risk division IHS Markit, a firm known for research and analysis. ‘This confrontation will likely include elements of military intimidation, worrying Russia’s neighbors,’ said Kokcharov.
Markit IHS report, which gave no sources, said that Latvia and Lithuania should implement the largest increase in military spending in 2018.
After the annexation of Crimea to Russia in 2014, Latvia and Lithuania agreed to raise their military spending to achieve the goal of NATO’s informal 2 percent of GDP by 2018, which Estonia has already achieved.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940 after the outbreak of the Second World War but regained their independence when the giant communist regime disintegrated in 1991, and now the three countries are members of NATO and the EU.
The three Baltic republics are home for detachments of about 150 US soldiers, who were deployed immediately after Russia annexed Crimea. American movement is offset by occasional rotation of troops with the NATO allies. Deployments will grow to about 1,000 soldiers in the country next year.
Lithuania has protested to Russia’s transfer this month of nuclear missiles to Kaliningrad, Russian outpost in the Baltic Sea, calling it an aggressive move against the whole Europe. Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave situated between Lithuania and Poland, both members of NATO and the EU.