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In Latvia and Europe, Naive Hopes that Russia Will Change Live On (Latvijas Avize, Latvia)


"Literally on the eve of the Crimean Anschluss, Riga indulged in 'opening the floodgates' of money and influence from the East. ... 'Russian World' is not anathema to the West, and may even prove a very lucrative event. Aggression in Ukraine surprised some of our influential people and made them a little uncomfortable. Yet they are convinced that sooner or later, everything will continue as usual, and they will want to step into the same river twice."


By Uldis Smith


Translated By Egija Mierkalne


May 29, 2014


Latvia - Latvijas Avize - Original Article (Latvian)

Latvia Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma arrives for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels, May 27. Are Latvians leaders, and other leaders of the Baltic States, just hoping that the Ukraine crisis subsides and things return to 'normal'?


EURONEWS, FRANCE: Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus sign into being the Eurasian Economic Union, May 29, 00:02:02RealVideo

Ten years ago, when Latvia joined the North Atlantic Alliance and European Union, few thought of the possibility that a serious conflict would occur between the West and Russia. The harshest critics of Moscow's policy at the time were themselves residual Russian democrats.


However, as time passed, it became increasingly difficult for Europe to argue that the partnership with Russia was based not only on mutual economic dependence, but common values. True, when in the Kremlin in May 2008, Vladimir Putin was replaced by techie and fan of British rock band Deep Purple Dmitry Medvedev, vague hopes were ignited among Europeans. Then, as a result of the outsized authority of Putin when he occupied of prime minister's chair, they also tended to write off Russia's invasion of Georgia, and the [2005-2006] "gas war” against Ukraine. … and because in Georgia on May 7, 2009, the E.U. launched the Eastern Partnership program.


On the same day, President Barack Obama approached Moscow about improving or "restarting" U.S.-Russia relations, which many saw as Washington turning away from Eastern Europe. In turn, in 2010, Medvedev approved Russia's new military doctrine, which envisaged NATO as the central threat. This doctrine, according to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, “doesn't reflect the real world,” yet the United States and Europe slowly realized that Moscow was looking at the world in its own peculiar way. That was embodied in, for example, the “Zapad 2009” military maneuvers, which simulated an invasion of the Baltic States and a preventive nuclear attack against Warsaw. Russia has also developed a national security strategy that, by the way, provides for the development of a national security strategy which, among other things, provides for the creation of a special “humanitarian and informational environment” in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic area.


Latvia allocated very little money to protect itself, and did nothing to oppose the dictates of [Russia's] gas monopoly, but it devoted considerable diplomatic effort to organizing [former President] Valdis Zatlers' 2010 visit to Russia. In Latvia, his journey was called the "symbolization of the end of the Cold War," and one that, as the former President Guntis Ulmanis said, “will open the floodgates.”


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These lofty words either confirmed a high degree of naivety on the part of our political elite, or the effectiveness of the Kremlin’s lobbying efforts, or perhaps both. The West's remaining illusions about Russia abated at the end of 2011, when it became quite clear that Medvedev was a fleeting and fictitious sign. That was no big surprise, but the manner in which the real master made his return triggered protest even in Russia, and offered a glimpse of how political events might sort themselves out in the Kremlin-created Eurasian Union.


Senior Latvian officials have finally understood that Putin is ready to use force to subdue “Russian lands.” But literally on the eve of the Crimean Anschluss, Riga indulged in, using Ulmanis' words, “opening the floodgates” of money and influence from the East. The argument that this was done by others sounds unconvincing, because Moscow’s attitude toward the Baltic States has always differed from, for example, its attitude toward Western Europe. There Russia is more cautious. Based on publicly available opinions from Baltic security services, this was by no means a good time to open the floodgates. While their opinions are quite similar, the statements from Baltic State leaders reflect a different understanding of the situation. Estonia and Lithuania were opposed to Latvia, aka the "hypnotized bunny," which seems to be that the posture adopted by states should be to support “long-term interests.” Why this remains to be the case is, as they say, a good question. Moscow’s information war has equally affected all the Baltic States, and has since time immemorial. The use of Russian military force to “protect” citizens abroad was already foreseen in 2010, by its newly-adopted doctrine.


Russian military spending rose sharply and its military presence on the Western boarders intensified. These and other signs showed that the Kremlin's goal, in an opportune moment, was “to change the security landscape in Eastern and Central Europe” (John Kerry's words) is not just a fantasy. In any case, the historical experience of the Baltic States is sufficient for Balts, given the course of Ukrainian events, not feel as if this has fallen from the shelf. However, Latvian politicians have made it look as if it has. In addition, some - we're not speaking about “Concord Center” or Tatjana Ždanoka - have come out with some relatively strange statements. The most unpleasant, but perhaps not the most incorrect explanation, is that this reflects the closeness of some of our most influential people to Putin’s “Russian World” - who understand the language and culture of corrupt business methods.

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“Russian World” is not anathema to the West, and may even prove a very lucrative event. Aggression in Ukraine surprised such people and made them feel a little uncomfortable - after all, lots of the money flow comes from Europe as well. Yet they are convinced that sooner or later, everything will continue as usual, and they will want to step into the same river twice.



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Posted By Worldmeets.US May 29, 2014 9:39pm