COLOGNE, Germany — Two of the three Baltic nations plus Finland have signed a letter of intent to pursue a joint purchase of new armored ground vehicles.
Senior defense officials from Estonia, Latvia and Finland signed the document Tuesday in Estonia’s capital, Talinn, with the idea of beginning initial preparatory work that would culminate in an eventual acquisition.
“We agreed to carry out defense-related technical research, and I believe that our cooperation will yield a positive result,” Estonian Defence Minister Jüri Luik was quoted as saying in a statement.
“We have a very positive long-term relationship with Finland in terms of procurement policy, we have bought self-propelled artillery and radar systems together,” Luik added. “Now, we want to extend this cooperation to Latvia, as all three countries share a common interest in armored vehicles.”
The two Baltic nations are NATO members, and Finland a NATO partner, plus all three countries share a border with Russia, which means they have crucial requirements to ferry troops around their respective territories for homeland defense missions.
Some Latvian officials previously expressed reservations about joint procurements in their neighborhood.
“I think there are many misperceptions on Baltic integration,” Janis Garisons, state secretary for the Latvian Ministry of Defence, told Defense News during a September visit to Washington. “I think this is a little bit of a wrong perception that there is a lot of added value in those common procurements.”
Lithuania's vice defense minister, Giedrimas Jeglinskas, echoed his colleague's sentiment when visiting Washington in October.
“Joint procurement, multinational procurement — I don’t think it exists that much in the world,” Jeglinskas told Defense News at the time. “Most of the programs out there are joint development. But when you talk about something like three-country procurement, it has been really hard for us to achieve.”
Lithuania this summer started taking delivery of new infantry fighting vehicles for its forces, a variant the Boxer, made by a consortium of Germany’s Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. The country signed an order for 88 vehicles in 2016 at a price of roughly €386 million (U.S. $429 million).
Aaron Mehta in Washington contributed to this report.