Participants attend the Riga Conference in Riga, Latvia on Oct. 28, 2016. The Riga Conference, an annual meeting focusing on foreign relations and defense issues, kicked off here on Friday, with speakers at the first day's panel discussion stressing a renewed importance of NATO's defense capabilities amid growing geopolitical instability. (Xinhua/Janis)
RIGA, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Riga Conference, an annual meeting focusing on foreign relations and defense issues, kicked off here on Friday, with speakers at the first day's panel discussion stressing a renewed importance of NATO's defense capabilities amid growing geopolitical instability.
Latvia's ex-President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said that if all countries met their collective defense commitments it would be "wise decisions and wise investment in our future."
Speaking of NATO's role and the Alliance's presence in Europe, Estonian Defense Minister Hannes Hanso said that "Russia has made this question easier for us."
Referring to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, obliging each member state to consider an armed attack against one member state an attack on them all, NATO's former secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that all NATO members must realize that even if a single member state was left unprotected, the whole Alliance would disintegrate and cease to exist.
"This is why we cannot let it happen," Rasmussen said, calling for a more active use of NATO forces.
Canadian Ministers of National Defense Harjit Sajjan said Canada realizes its collective responsibility and is therefore ready to deploy its troops to the Baltics and elsewhere in the world. "We need to see everything in a broader context," the Canadian minister said.
NATO's ex-chief Rasmussen said if Moscow continues its rhetoric about nuclear weapons, NATO will have to boost its presence on the eastern borders and consider a permanent force there.
The Riga Conference, which is taking place for the 11th consecutive year already, has brought together over 600 high-level international defense and foreign relations experts, diplomats, politicians, academics, entrepreneurs and journalists.
The topics on two-day meeting's agenda include the European Union's role in the global economy, Brexit's impact on the bloc's future, NATO's ability to adapt to challenges of the 21st century, relations between the West and Russia, as well as the European Union's Eastern Partnership initiative.