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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
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.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs