Defense Treaty: what is permitted and what is forbidden to the American soldiers in Latvia

Last week, the Saeima in the first reading conceptually approved the bill on ratification of the agreement “On cooperation between Latvia and U.S. in the sphere of defense.” The portal Delfi has studied the 35-page document that most specifically governs the rights and responsibilities of American soldiers in the territory of Latvia.

From the contract you can learn about who will have access to specific objects and areas, how to place military equipment, how the U.S. military will enter and leave Latvia and to pass the customs procedures. The contract clearly spelled out the items for safety, environmental protection, criminal jurisdiction, import and export of items for official use and personal use of military post offices, the process of currency exchange, utility payments, exemption from taxes, and more.

At the U.S. Embassy in Latvia to portal Delfi has informed, that the contract is a standard agreement similar documents of the U.S. has signed with more than 100 countries around the world. The same treaties the U.S. concluded with Estonia and Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Seimas has ratified the document in an expedited manner.

To date, the status of the armed forces of the United States and other NATO countries in Latvia determines the North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO SOFA), signed in 1951. Latvia acceded in 2004. Under this agreement, countries may enter into additional bilateral agreements, which in more detail regulate the status of the armed forces in the territory of the host country. Cooperation agreement between Latvia and the United States in the defense sector will add substantially to the terms of the agreement the NATO SOFA.

Access to certain objects and territories

To date specially agreed facilities include: aircraft air force base in Lielvarde military base and training ground in Adazi, and also the final destination Garkalnsky railway line. Given the fact that recently in Latvia everywhere began construction of military facilities, a list of agreed facilities and areas may be significantly extended.

The contract specified that the forces of the United States (further in the text we will also call the American soldiers or the U.S. army), performers of the contract (individuals, legal entities and their employees who are not citizens or non-citizens of Latvia, but entered into a contract or a contract of subcontract with the Department of homeland security (in other words, suppliers and contractors), dependents (family members of a member of the U.S. armed forces or civilian forces that are financial, legal or health depend on these individuals and their support live with this person for a single residence located on the territory of Latvia with the permission of the leadership of the US forces), air, land and naval means which operate forces of the United States or at a specific point operated for the benefit of the forces of the United States must have unimpeded access to all agreed facilities and areas. They also have the right to use them for visits, training, exercises, transit and other events.

Access must also be to the refueling aircraft, the tanks for refueling marine vehicles. The territory can be used for the landing and takeoff of aircraft, evacuation, short-term activities for the maintenance of aircraft and marine vehicles, staff accommodation, for the needs that are associated with the placement of US forces and materiel, to joint military exercises.

The above categories of persons must also have access to the measures on liquidation of consequences of disasters, emergency operations in emergencies, construction projects that are built to tasks specified in the contract.

Agreed facilities and areas, as well as their parts can be provided either for the exclusive use of US forces or joint use of U.S. forces and the National armed forces of Latvia (NAF).

For security purposes and defence Latvia authorizes U.S. forces to control access to agreed facilities and areas, and their parts, for the exclusive use of which have the right forces of the United States. Also US forces in conjunction with the Latvian party will coordinate access to these agreed facilities and areas used for joint activities of the U.S. forces and LNS.

Upon enquiry, the representative of the Latvian side, in the framework of laws and regulations, promotes short-term access for U.S. forces and performers of the contractual works to other public facilities (e.g., roads, ports and airports) which are not consistent with the objects, including property and facilities that are owned or operated by state or local governments, to private property and objects (roads, ports and airports) used to support US forces.

All the agreed facilities and areas, as well as those parts of them that US forces are used together with the Latvian army Latvia provides to the U.S. forces free of charge.

On the agreed objects of the American party has the right to carry out construction work, also power, the United States can remake the infrastructure within of one of the clauses of the contract, which will be discussed later. U.S. forces will need to discuss the construction work with the Latvian authorities and to hold them strictly in accordance with the technical requirements of the building regulations, the relevant requirements and standards of both parties.

US forces take care of all costs for construction work to be carried out on agreed facilities and areas exclusively used for the needs of US forces. In that case, if the agreed facilities and areas used by both parties to the contract, construction costs and infrastructure improvements apportioned between the parties.

Equipment, ammunition: access always and everywhere

U.S. forces have the right to transport, place and store equipment for defense purposes, ammunition and equipment on the agreed objects and territories, their parts or other places, which will be agreed between representatives of both parties. US forces in advance to inform the NAF of the equipment defense value, quantity and schedule of delivery, and also about who needs to deliver the goods.

Previously installed by US forces, equipment and facilities, parts thereof, identified for storage, are in exclusive use by US forces. The US forces have exclusive control over the previously established material and technical objects, their use and placement, as well as the unrestricted right at any time to remove these objects from Latvia.

The US forces and performers of the contract is the unrestricted access to storage and use them in connection with the previously placed there and stored maintenance supplies.

Air, sea and land transport of U.S. forces has access to Latvian airfields, sea ports and other places at which both parties were agreed about the delivery, storage and placement of material and technical means of U.S. forces in the territory of Latvia.

Right to property: buildings are the Latvian

All buildings, constructions and structures located on the land of the agreed facilities and areas, including those that U.S. forces have altered or improved shall remain the property of Latvia. All of these objects become Latvian property after completion of construction works, however, US forces used them until until the US forces no longer needed in their use.

All the above objects are transferred to Latvia after US forces cease to use them with the condition that the United States did not pay any associated costs. The parties may discuss the transfer of any object, including a provision for refunds of US residual value of construction works.

U.S. forces and performers of the employment agreement retain ownership of all equipment, logistical equipment, storage, structures and other movable property, which was imported to Latvia or acquired in Latvia in connection with the contract, as long as the us side will not give up their rights to this property.

Safety: Latvia is obliged to protect U.S. forces

Latvia is obliged to carry out all necessary measures in order to ensure the protection and safety of the U.S. forces, members of the employment contract, the dependents of the previously placed material and technical means, as well as the protection and security of official information of the United States. Responsible military authorities of Latvia and the USA who need to work in close cooperation.

The Latvian side allows US forces to use all rights and powers which are necessary for the US forces to exploit, protect or manage the agreed objects. The United States pledge to coordinate all such activities with the Latvian authorities.

Also stipulates that Latvia reserves the liability on defense outside of agreed facilities and areas.

Transport: Latvian rooms for private cars

Latvian authorities will recognize the documents and registration documents issued to a vehicle of the US forces and performers of the employment contract by the U.S. military and civilian agencies.

At the request of the military Department of the USA the Latvian side registers and gives the military free rooms for those official vehicles of the U.S. forces that are not tactical vehicles.

Personal vehicles of the representatives of the forces of the United States, performers of the employment contract and dependants are issued numbers that do not differ from the numbers issued to residents of Latvia.

Licenses and other permits issued by the us side to the US or the executors of the employment contract that allow you to exploit the air, land and sea transport are also in effect in the territory of Latvia.

Latvian institutions without checking the driving skills and duties of any recognized driving permit, which the U.S. government gave U.S. military personnel, dependents, and implementing employment agreements for management of private transport. From these same individuals would not require international driving permits.

Traffic: no duties and inspections

Under the agreement, land, sea and air transport which are operated by the US or only in favor of US forces, may enter the territory of Latvia, to travel with her and to move freely, while respecting relevant safety rules, air traffic rules, road safety and safety of navigation.

Aircraft of the United States government aircraft and civil aviation, are used at a particular moment only in accordance with the agreement with the Department of homeland security, is authorized to cross the territory of Latvia, to land and takeoff in the territory of Latvia in accordance with the rules of safety and navigation.

In relation to air, land and sea transportation of the United States government will not apply to search and inspection without the consent of the authorities of the United States.

Air, land and Maritime transportation of the U.S. government are not charged fees for air navigation, charges for flights over the territory of Latvia, fee for landing and Parking (aircraft) and charges for pilotage services, fees for use of the port, port taxes etc. (for sea transport).

Criminal jurisdiction: the judge will be the courts of the United States

According to this clause, Latvia partially refuses to punish U.S. military personnel who committed in the territory of Latvia of the crime.

Latvia refuses to implement the right of primary criminal jurisdiction or penalties for criminal offenses committed by the armed forces of the United States in time free from duty. In this case, the punishment will be appointed by the United States. The exception would be special cases where the General Prosecutor’s office of Latvia in connection with important circumstances may withdraw a waiver to implement its jurisdiction.

Thus, if we will go on committing heinous crimes, and criminal acts in which there are victims, the punishment will be to carry out the Latvian side. Within 21 days after becoming aware of the crime, the Latvian side must send a request to the military authorities of the United States.

The Prosecutor General’s office of Latvia shall inform US forces about the beginning of the criminal process against a U.S. serviceman, civilian personnel of military units of the United States or a dependent, and the forces of the United States undertakes to inform the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Latvia on every substantial crime.

Imprisonment: whether Latvia can arrest the us military?

The Latvian authorities shall without delay inform the US military about the arrest or the arrest of a U.S. serviceman, representative of the civilian personnel of military units of the United States or dependent. The military authorities in the USA should always be early access to the detainees or arrested. The representatives of the military authorities of the USA have the right to participate in all proceedings and questioning.

Member of the U.S. armed forces or related civilian, against which the Latvian authorities conduct pre-trial investigation remains under the control of American institutions until, until the end of proceedings in court. In such cases, the military structure of the United States are doing everything to ensure the attendance of specific persons in Latvia for investigative actions that require his participation. However, if the court is not concluded within a year since the beginning of the process, the military Department of the USA from this obligation are exempted. In some cases this period can be extended — by mutual consent of the parties.

The US military are responsible for discipline in the forces of the US and can handle their Military police on agreed facilities and areas which are U.S. forces. The police will be able to work in cooperation with the Latvian representatives.

Taxes: VAT, road tax and other charges

US forces are exempt from paying VAT, tax on trade, tax, use, excise and other taxes, provided that equipment and supplies will be used for the needs of U.S. forces to perform the tasks stipulated in the contract with the US forces. To do this, U.S. military forces provide to the competent authorities of Latvia agreed a certificate stating that all equipment, inventory, equipment and other goods designed for the needs of the us army.

The U.S. military and dependents are exempt from all taxes, including VAT, taxes and licence fees when importing to the territory of Latvia personal items.

U.S. military personnel and their dependants who possess a personal vehicle, no need to pay road tax and also pay for registration of the vehicle.

The U.S. military, their dependants and executors of the employment contract have the right to import into the territory of Latvia personal effects, furniture, one vehicle for every person over the age of 18, as well as other goods intended for the personal use and homemaking. For bringing these things to Latvia will not be charged tax duties and taxes. These privileges also apply to goods and things that will be sent as gifts to servicemen, their dependants and contractors of the employment contract.

Goods and things that were imported without payment of duties and taxes, not to sell or transfer to a third party in the territory of Latvia, who has no right to import such goods without paying the appropriate fee, unless permission for the transfer of the goods or things are not made, the competent authorities of Latvia.

Custom: should be fast

Under the agreement, Latvia shall undertake all the necessary measures to speed up the process of import and export of goods and procedures for customs clearance. Customs inspection will be carried out in an expedited manner.

Latvian customs officers carry out an inspection of personal belongings of persons entering and leaving soldiers at their place of residence when things are taken or removed in accordance with defined procedures.

Classified by the US information to import and export from Latvia without customs inspection.

US military provide necessary measures at sites where U.S. servicemen posted to prevent possible abuses in the observance of customs rules. In case of violation of customs regulations the case will be investigated as the Latvian authorities and the US military.

Cafes, shops and post office: the U.S. can open the “px”

U.S. forces by agreement may place on the territory of Latvia, the px and other stores, open canteens, social and educational centres, to equip the recreation area for U.S. servicemen and their families.

Also behind the forces of the United States is entitled to organize various events with the involvement of other organizations. For this they do not need a license, permit, inspection or other regulatory control measures.

The US has the right to establish, maintain and manage the military postal offices which are provided for the needs of U.S. servicemen, their dependants and executors of the employment contract.

For correspondence that is sent to these post offices will be stamps of the United States. Official correspondence and parcels forces of the United States may not be subject to customs inspection, search or to be confiscated.