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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs