There were further signs of discord among the Latvian cabinet June 20 with the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry the latest to air their differences.
Minister of Defense Artis Pabriks (Development/For!) issued a statement containing a thinly-veiled critique of Interior Minister Sandis Ģirģens (KPV LV), who on June 19 had told a Saeima Committee that his ministry had floated the idea of getting the army involved more actively in the security of the eastern border of the country but had not received a response from the Ministry of Defense.
“In response to a statement made by Minister of Interior Sandis Ģirģens on the involvement of the National Armed Forces in protecting the country’s eastern border, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks notes that it is not enough to make loud statements, but that much more depth is needed to address this issue,” said the Defense Ministry.
“In order to decide on the support and participation of the National Armed Forces in protecting the eastern border of the country, in particular the transfer of personnel, there is a need for much more in-depth consideration, such as legal issues and the planning of financial and other resources. National Armed Forces units, in whatever form, cannot simply be loaned out for a fixed period,” said Pabriks.
“We have heard a number of statements by the Minister of the Interior on this issue, which implies that the Ministry of Defense should consider the possibility of fully taking over the protection of the eastern border of the country, including by fully taking over all the existing resources of the State Border Guard,” said Pabriks, adding that the National Armed Forces already cooperates with the Border Guard – which is under the Interior Ministry’s remit – in areas such as weapons compatibility and joint training.
In accordance with the National Defense Concept, the State Border Guard can be integrated into the National Armed Forces’ command structure in the case of a threat to the state.
Beyond the unusual nature of having one ministry issuing press releases criticizing another, the back-and-forth comes hot on the heels of a couple of other embarrassments for Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš, who it seems was not told in advance of Economics Minister Ralfs Nemiro’s decision to sack the entire Supervisory Board of the Latvenergo electricity utility and also saw Saeima proposing legislation to slash excise tax on alcohol at record speed within hours of the PM saying it would not be done before July.