News / Europe

Latvia Wary of Russian Moves

FILE - A Latvian soldier is seen holding a national flag as he waits to greet US soldiers arriving for exercises, at the airport in Riga April 24, 2014.
FILE - A Latvian soldier is seen holding a national flag as he waits to greet US soldiers arriving for exercises, at the airport in Riga April 24, 2014.
James Brooke

Latvia is 1,000 kilometers north of the separatist war in southern Ukraine.  But what Latvia and Ukraine shares is a neighbor - Russia. And that neighbor has been cause for worries in the Baltic nation.

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics says his government is concerned about Russia’s military rearmament around the Baltics.

Russia has rebuilt is its navy in its Baltic outpost in Kaliningrad, Russian warplanes constantly test NATO airspace over the three Baltic nations, and in the past 18 months Russia’s army rebuilt an old base.

“[The] helicopter base [is] very close to [the] Latvian border and during the Ukrainian crisis, the number of helicopters, attack helicopters, stationed in that base has tripled,” says Rinkevics.

FILE - Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars RinkevicsFILE - Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics
x
FILE - Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics
FILE - Latvia's Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics


NATO says the Russian base has 100 combat helicopters, including Mi-28N Night Hunters and Ka-52 Alligators. Code-named Ostrov, the base is 32 kilometers east of Latvia’s border.

Rinkevics, who served 12 years with Latvia’s Ministry of Defense, said NATO has to counter Russia’s increased military might. He wants more NATO troops rotating through the Baltics for training and exercises.

The only NATO soldiers to visit have been American, but the Latvian expects several European countries will shortly send troops.

Next January, Latvia is to succeed Italy in assuming the presidency of the 28-member European Union.  One third of Latvians speak Russian, and Latvia is expected to push Russia issues inside the EU.

The propaganda challenge

The foreign minister said he supports an EU-US initiative to create a Russian-language television channel with accurate and balanced news. He says in recent months, Latvians have been shocked by what they see on Russian state television.

“The amount of propaganda, and sometimes open lies, I think they are really unprecedented.  I think they are already surpassing even what you could see back in the 1970s and 1980s, as far as what I could remember from my own childhood about ‘bad America,’ and capitalists and imperialists and so on,” says Rinkevics.

The minister says that Latvia’s Russian speakers remain loyal to the Latvian state.

But he says the TV impact is different in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking area.  To create peace in Ukraine, he says the Kremlin has to change Russian state television reporting.

“Let us consider this massive propaganda coming out of Moscow, encouraging, actually what you see on Russian TV [is] news that is actually open and direct encouragement to separatists to continue [destabilizing Ukraine].”

Need for political solution

To end the fighting in Ukraine, he says, it is essential that Russia close its border with Ukraine and throw all its weight behind peace talks.

“Really, the first key, and the main key for a solution, would be if the Russian Federation really sits at the table, really makes some certain steps to discourage separatists, to encourage them to sit and talk and find a political solution,” says Rinkevics.

The Latvian foreign minister says geography dictates the small Baltic states are fated to deal with their massive eastern neighbor.  At age 40, this Latvian politician realizes it could be a lifetime challenge.

“Let us not fool ourselves: Russia is not going to change for a long time.  But we cannot allow them to change us,” says Rinkevics.

For now, the Baltic nations hope NATO deterrence will be enough to keep the Russian bear at bay.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Verners Reichmanis from: Lima, Ohio Usa
July 05, 2014 4:01 PM
Those who believe that the "Bear" can be trusted are fools.. They came into Latvia promising many things... but left when the German's came trying to take many of our patriots with them .. to eliminate them.. Then came the Nazi's... then again came the Communists... My family was blessed to have escaped... .. but, my father believed the Bear that if he returned home all would be forgiven... My mother received many letters telling us just how wonderful life was under Communist control... then... a few years later.. those who believed in the promises ended up in a gulag .. Now the Russian remnant have the audacity to complain about being oppressed by the Latvian majority.. .. what can I say... in my my modest and most likely incorrect spelling Dievs svieti Latviu.. I am proud to be a Latvian.. ... .

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 04, 2014 8:21 AM
Yeah, but that's like mentioning yorkshire terriers attending Pitbull Fighting Training camp! You know I'm just ripping, love Canada, so rip back. If you can find a band better than Rush, good luck with that! Latvia should be worried as all nations that have the agreement made by Russia to have independence and it's own national sovereignty without Russian interference. But with the way the former Soviet KGB Putin has been giving rebels RUSSIAN weapons to KILL UKRAINIANS in UKRAINE, I think he has made it perfectly clear that he can give a rats azzzz!

Putin already took Crimea from Ukraine. He will succeed in taking the eastern side of Ukraine with all the talking and threats from EU and US. The fact that he is steamrolling forward shows just how much EU and the US has affected Putin's decision. Putin can't slam enough vodka to stop his boisterous laughter at the EU and US threats of sanctions. He is not in the least worried about a cold war environment, after all if he was worried, he wouldn't have been giving rebels RUSSIAN weapons to KILL UKRAINIANS in UKRAINE!!!! Watch out Poland, he has a serious beef with you guys in paraticular!

by: Bill
July 03, 2014 4:31 PM
You mentioned that only US troops have visited Latvia and that's just not true - Canadians and others were also a part of recent training exercises.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs