Baltic group urges increases in military aid

The Baltic American Freedom League is calling for significant increases in U.S. military assistance to the Baltic countries and is asking its members to write to congressmen urging support.

BAFL wants Foreign Military Financing (FMF) increased to USD 6 million each for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for fiscal year 2007. The organization also wants International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding increased to USD 1.5 million for each country.

“It is not appropriate that FMF and IMET funding for the Baltics be decreased in FY 2007, especially when funding is being increased for other new NATO countries,” BAFL said in an e-mail newsletter.

Both FMF and IMET are components of the U.S. State Department’s international affairs budget request now under consideration in Congress. FMF is used to help foreign military forces work better with U.S. and NATO forces. IMET focuses on increasing the professionalism of military forces.

The House of Representatives on June 5 in a 373-34 vote passed its version of the appropriation, H.R.5522. The Senate’s Committee on Appropriations is scheduled to take up the bill on June 29.

Under the 2007 Foreign Operations budget, Latvia would be allocated USD 4 million in FMF and USD 1.185 million in IMET funding. Combined, that is USD 458,000 less than Latvia is expected to get in the current fiscal year, or about an 8 percent decrease.

“Latvia has proven itself to be a reliable partner for the United States in the Global War on Terrorism and other high-priority foreign policy issues,” according to the State Department’s budget justification. “In FY 2007, U.S. defense and military assistance programs will provide material aid and training, complement allied and partner-state support for Latvia by facilitating Latvia’s participation in multilateral projects, and strengthen the professionalism of the country’s defense establishment.”

Estonia and Lithuania would see the same allocations as Latvia.

BAFL noted that all three nations have contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition serving in Iraq.

“It is important that the U.S. continues to support the training and equipping of these troops so they can continue to be effective in their operations alongside other Coalition forces,” BAFL said. “These increases can also be justified in light of the Baltic countries’ contribution to the spread of democracy in the Eastern European region. They are on the front lines of the battle to bring freedom and political transparency to other Eastern European nations.”

Of the other four nations that joined the NATO defense alliance in 2004, Bulgaria would see a USD 10 million FMF allocation and a USD 1.43 million IMET allocation; Romania would get USD 15 million in FMF and USD 1.58 million for IMET; Slovakia would get USD 4 million in FMF and USD 985,000 for IMET, and Slovenia would get USD 500,000 in FMF and USD 885,000 for IMET.

The total proposed FMF budget for fiscal year 2007 is USD 4.55 billion, while the total proposed IMET budget is USD 88.9 million, both relatively unchanged from 2006 levels.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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