09.06.2024 Report on the CanCham’s “Defence, and Latvia’s Defence Strategy” panel discussion

Report on the CanCham’s “Defence, and Latvia’s Defence Strategy” panel discussion

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia’s (CanCham) CanCham’s “Defence, and Latvia’s Defence Strategy” panel discussion took place on Monday, June 3rd, 2024 at the Pullman Riga Old Town Hotel.

This event was undertaken because of the current geopolitical situation in Europe as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and concerns expressed by some of our members.

Military considerations, hybrid warfare and disinformation are affecting everything from our perception of security to economic risk to the state of mind of individuals. Many sectors of our society are affected, and many questions are raised.

As a Chamber Chairman, I had heard the following concerns:

  • from individuals in Latvia: “Latvia is threatened. I need to consider relocating.”
  • from potential visitors to Latvia: “It’s best to delay visiting Latvia.”
  • from foreigners considering management positions in Latvia: “it is too risky to move to Latvia under the current conditions”
  • from investors: “we are concerned about the geopolitical risks”

We are either at war or in a pre-war situation with our aggressive neighbor. Latvia has always recognized the threat, but Western democracies are slowly understanding the situation and are starting to adapt. Measures are being taken to deal with the threats. It is important to communicate to the public that measures are being taken to reassure those who have doubts.

The panelists represented different sectors that are actively involved with the security issue. We asked them to comment on what they are currently doing and to answer questions.

The panelists included:

  • Colonel R.M. (Rob) Foster, MSC, MSM, CD, Canadian Defence Attaché to Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Embassy of Canada to Latvia
  • Ainārs Latkovskis (JV), member of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Latvian Parliament,
  • Elīna Egle, Chairperson of the Board of the Federation of Security & Defence Industries of Latvia,
  • Nicolas Lepage, Regional Senior Trade Commissioner and Counsellor (Commercial affairs – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia), Embassy of Canada to Latvia
  • Andris Ķesteris, President, Baltic Canadian Council (in Canada)

I had the honour to moderate this important event.

The main take-aways from the discussions included:

  • The  Canadian military is significantly increasing its presence in Latvia as Task Force Latvia and serving as the lead of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia. Canadian commitments to the military infrastructure are significant and involvement is expected to last ten to twenty years.
  • The Latvian government is very well aware of threats to Latvia’s security and actively working with its partners in NATO and the EU, to mitigate the threats of disinformation and hybrid warfare, while at the same time contributing to regional security to not only defend the region but to discourage aggression. Special recognition was directed at the Canadian contribution.
  • The Latvian defence industry is actively working to provide the necessary tools for defence, while at the same time contributing to the economic development of Latvia itself by providing job opportunities and developing new skills, and building exportable equipment and machinery.
  • Despite the potential uncertainty in the prevailing geopolitical conditions, trade does not appear to be suffering  and opportunities continue to develop. Canada, in fact, sees the need and the opportunity to develop stronger commercial ties with the Baltic region.
  • The ex-pat community and advocacy groups living in Canada (and indeed elsewhere) are making significant contributions to battling disinformation and informing their societies of the real situation, while at the same time lobbying government institutions to support military and economic initiatives in this region.

Clearly there is a lot going on not only to provide security but also deterrence from military intervention, but at the same time we use these conditions to stimulate economic development and develop closer partnerships with societies that share our values. I hope that these discussions provided some reassurance to those with concerns about Latvia’s security. It’s good to be informed, and perhaps this event did just that.

The rest of the evening was spent in friendly networking and developing new contacts. A big “THANK YOU” to all who participated and especially the panelists whose insight and experience helps us to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Ed Kalvins,
Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Latvia

You are invited to review the CanCham brochure  which describes important information about the CanCham and our upcoming events, and please follow https://cancham.lv/ for the latest news and event updates.


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