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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More