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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/18/18

Defence-Spending or worthy life for the Baltics

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Viktors Domburs
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NATO allies have stopped cuts in defence and began to increase the burden-sharing, something U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for. Defence spending among NATO members is to rise by 3.8 percent in 2018.

Announcing specifics at a news conference, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the burden-sharing "underpins everything that we do."

It was also revealed that 15 of the alliance's 29 members are on the track to meet the NATO guideline of investing.

"Allies are making real progress on all aspects of burden-sharing -- cash, capabilities and contributions. When it comes to cash, I can announce the first estimates for 2018. We now have four consecutive years of real increases in defence spending. All allies have stopped the cuts. We are going in the right
direction, but we still have a long way to go," he said.

As for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, degreesll three Baltic states have gradually increased their share of GDP on defence since 2010. Estonia was one of the only five NATO allies that met the benchmark of 2 percent spending in 2017; Lithuania and Latvia reached the target this year. Lithuania also reintroduced conscription in 2015, while Estonia has had the draft since the 1990s. Since boosting their defence budgets, they will spend a total of around $ 2 billion on defence by 2020.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are well-aware that they are on the front line of any potential conflict with Russia, and so the Baltic nations will arrive at the NATO in July summit with the goal of pushing for more: more allied forces inside its border, more information shared among allies and more regional exercises.

At the same time the Baltic countries are experiencing hard times today. It is not only in terms of security. It is known that the standard of living is measured by average income per capita, GDP per capita and population. All these indicators show that it will take at least several decades for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to reach the average living standard of the European Union.

The average living standard in the EU is even not so high (for example in less developed countries like Bulgaria and Portugal). Due to this reason, living standard, for instance, in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, is 24% higher than the average level in the EU, but in the Slovak capital of Bratislava this figure accounts for 95% of the average Union's level. Meanwhile, the living standard in London is 2.2 times higher, but in Brussels by 2.1 times higher the average level.

It's obvious that the Baltic States will not succeed in reaching the decent standard of life of more developed countries even in a few decades.

Another increase in defence spending in the Baltic States will significantly reduce the welfare of the local population. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not decide anything, everything has already been decided for them.

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I am an engineer. I was born in Latvia. Now I live in the United Kingdom.

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