Statements of Ināra Mūrniece, speaker of the Saeima, that the choice of the President of Latvia with the voices of Social Democratic Party “Concord” would create a risk to the security of the state, hazard Latvian democracy. In view of “Concord” such statements harass parliamentary opposition and are unacceptable in the democratic society.
In the wave of nationalistic fervor speaker of the Saeima used aggressive rhetoric against the constitutional rights of opposition to participate in the decision making process.
The President in the Latvian political system is a symbol of national unity. Bearing in mind actual geopolitical situation it is of vital importance for Latvia and Europe to keep solidarity among different social groups, including Russian-speaking citizens of Latvia. Substantive part of “Concord” voters are Russian speaking Latvians and such statements marginalize them, provoking feelings of exclusion and discrimination.
Social democratic party “Concord” is convinced that holding EU presidency Latvia has to promote European principles of individual freedoms and political pluralism in contrast to compromising the freedom of speech, oppressing the opposition and arbitrariness. The speaker of the parliament has to play decisive role in maintaining democratic culture, not the contrary.
Author: Jānis Urbanovičs
The crisis in Ukraine, even in the mode ‘frozen’ by Minsk truce, enhances the political agitation level in the countries bordering on NATO in the east – in the three Baltic States and Poland, Bulgaria and Romania. In our country an elevated, even demonstratively exaggerated concern for the national security prevails, persistently insisting on announcing Russia a self-evident aggressor and questioning the capacity of the Alliance. The fearful rhetoric has achieved that the United States have clearly demonstrated – by presence of troops and military equipment - their willingness to protect the eastern border of NATO. Such declarations make nervous and frighten Russia even more and urge it to demonstrate its willingness ‘to ward off the attack of the aggressive block’ with bravado. Tension on the NATO (and the EU) eastern border is growing, tempting the governments ad hoc to ‘unlade’ it by radical means.
This kind of mood deforms the ability of the ‘national-conservative’ Latvian government to carry out the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in good faith. In its foreign policy route it focuses on the policy of the radical wing of Kiev and the standpoints of the US Congress ‘hawks’ - and not on the cautious joint diplomatic route of the EU, on the efforts of Germany and France to achieve peace in Ukraine. Probably the leadership of the presiding country of the EU does not openly oppose Minsk talks ‘with the aggressor’, because they wholeheartedly believe that the ceasefire will fail and warfare as ‘the natural order of things’ will be resumed.
The ongoing discussions next door, in Central Europe and the Nordic countries, on how to achieve a rational continental relief of tension and put an end to the conflict in Ukraine, have no impact on the militant mood of the hypothetical ‘front zone’. When expressing their standpoints on these issues Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria will adopt distinctly ‘pro - American’ decisions - also in order to deliberately challenge ‘the cowards of the old EU’.
Certainly, the caution and suspiciousness of the Baltic and East European nations in respect to the intentions of Russia is a natural reaction, caused by bitter historical experience. However, the ruling politicians intentionally exaggerate this instinct because ‘fear sells’ – during parliamentary elections they disguised their inefficient and corrupt policies by the Russian threat. The enraged society has morally matured for the inevitability of war - believing that diplomatic efforts are futile and even treacherous.
East European variation of the ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’
It would be logical to expect that specifically NATO (and the EU) bordering countries, in the fear of becoming a potential ‘combat zone’, would be vitally interested in the weakening of confrontation between the West and Russia and discontinuation of the Ukrainian civil war, maintained by it. Unfortunately, the governments of these countries renounce ‘such a primitive’ standpoint in favour of the more ‘sophisticated’ tactics of deliberately stoking tensions. The most efficient solution for the Eastern political elite apparently, judging by what is said and done, seems to be striving by available means to turn the Ukrainian civil war into a direct military conflict between NATO and Russia.
The hope is, first of all, to compel Russia to present itself as a warring country and the ally of Donbass separatists. Secondly, to compel or to cheat NATO into becoming Kiev’s ally and to get directly involved in military clashes. A cynical, but rather rational standpoint – to get the threat of a conflict away from own doorstep by fuelling wars somewhere else, ‘They fire in Donbass already, destruction there is already done - a perfect place to finally resolve the ‘clash of civilizations’ between the West and Russia!’ Ukraine hopes to play out the Korean War scenario - only with more fundamental results.
Therefore, Eastern Europe persistently demands that the US should supply the lethal weapons to the Ukrainian army - that would make Washington a military ally of Kiev. Due to caution and avarice the instigators are yet unwilling to empty their national arsenals in favour of supplies to Ukraine. However, in the Baltic States and Poland possible ways to assist the government of Ukraine with live power through volunteer formations - companies or even battalions – formed of their military is publicly discussed. (Or actually by starting to build common military structures with this country, using LITPOLUKRBRIG as a model). It has not been publicly reported, if the volunteers have actually been selected (or assigned). However, (may I be forgiven for this blasphemy) we know that ‘In the beginning was the Word’. Therefore a reasonable suspicion arises that at some point, if hostilities renew in Ukraine, the military of other countries will engage in them, making the commanders of NATO and the leadership of the EU to face fait accompli: some Member State of both organizations has become a warring party.
Unfortunately, the truce in Donbass is and will remain fragile, it may collapse at any moment - it is enough for one of the warring parties to demonstratively fire a couple of artillery projectiles over ‘the everyday norm’ or to count the hits of the opposing party more carefully. In Ukraine – and on both the right and on the left bank of the Dnieper – a class of people has developed, who can no longer imagine their lives without war and who wish to extend it, because peace will be lean – it will be necessary to restore, what has been destroyed, to take care of employment, to pay debts and to obey instructions from the lenders. (Therefore, the financial assistance and loans to Kiev provided by the EU should be consistently used as measures ‘to coerce peace’.)
‘End of all fear’
The militancy of Eastern Europe is based on the belief that the Western military and economic power is able to defeat Russia ‘forever’. Moreover - that is precisely the obligation of the West and now is the right time for it. Then finally total peace will set in and all fear will come to an end. Furthermore, such a view is popular also in Western Europe, where it has equally deep (although not equally painful) historical roots.
Russia in any of its shapes has been inconvenient and frightening to the neighbours or to other European powers since the reign of Ivan the Terrible and the Livonian War. Too big, powerful and distinctive, impossible to integrate into the European scale and policy.
From time to time somebody for the sake of rescuing the Western civilization tried to shackle the Russian bear or split it into weaker bear cubs: mainly the Livonian Order Master Wolter Plettenberg known to the people of the Baltics during the turn of the XV and XVI centuries, the Swedish Karl XII during the Northern War, Napoleon, as well as the European powers, which for ‘the sake of the balance of power’ rescued the Ottoman Empire from defeat in the Crimean War and in the Russian - Turkish war, generals of Kaiser Wilhelm II Hindenburg and Ludendorff. And, of course, Hitler with general Paulus, the leader for the development of ‘Barbarossa’ plan.
Unfortunately, specifically the fear and anger of the EU diplomacy makers that Russia has once again become too strong, too rich and therefore too dangerous for Europe, has led to a fatal error: ‘The Eastern Partnership’ was converted from the initial post-soviet European integration space project into a clear attempt to isolate Russia politically and economically. This provoked the Ukrainian crisis – the current problems of the EU are largely self-made.
Let us assume for a moment that this concept – by gaining the final victory, Europe has finally freed itself from old injuries – really has a rational substantiation. That the mission of the West on the Ukrainian battlefield is to end all wars and fears, while the intended ‘end of history’ sets in. There is even a historical precedent: Rome defeated its rival Carthage, turned it into ruins, salted the ruins and then spread ‘pax romanum’ throughout Europe and North Africa...
But then, before resorting to the matter, it has to be estimated whether the West can really win and subdue Russia? It is impossible to smother economically and politically. The statements of various experts that Russia will shortly financially collapse or that frightened oligarchs will exercise a royal coup are rooted in wishful thinking. Even because BRICS cooperation still exists and Russia has not become a ‘rogue state’. It has allies or supporters, who profit from the claims of Russia to wrestle with the West. For the future powers like China and India it is not profitable if the West subdues it (or even quietly integrates it into itself). In addition, China is able to credit its neighbour, which will grant investments in natural resources (Siberian gas, oil, wood).
Also hypothetical Putin’s departure will not change anything - the Russian model of power confirms that it will be stable, viable and retain respect of the nation after the substitution of the current leader. Of course, Russia after the annexation of the Crimea and Western sanctions is facing a serious crisis, however it strengthens the state power. Everything now happening in the Russian society enhances the confidence defined by Solzhenitsyn: he initially believed that the West is opposed what is Soviet, but discovered that the West is opposed to what is Russian. (This unwavering revelation was cherished by the Soviet dissident, while enjoying political asylum in the United States in the idyll of rural Vermont.) Putin also underwent the same metamorphosis of views: at the beginning of the first presidency he thought about Russia's integration into NATO, integration into the Western economy - until he realized that he was involved in a game, in which he had been irrevocably assigned the role of ‘the bad guy’.
Those who indomitably wish to get the upper hand over Russia can only resort to war. However military confrontation between NATO and Russia does not mean significantly more intense machine gun and cannon hits on Donbass front. It means uncontrollable global nuclear risk. As the military conflict unfolds, the Alliance ships quite logically will block Sevastopol. In that case Russia will try to respond with all available means - including those measured in kilotonnes. Instead of ‘the end of all fears’ the third world war will be achieved. Does anyone really want it? For Europe, while considering this, it is obviously much more beneficial to continue to live with its historical fears.
Ambition may take the upper hand over the desire to fight
The ‘Concord’ party I represent is not involved in the government of Latvia and therefore now is ‘the presiding EU opposition.’ This status provides me with the obligation not only to analyse the erroneousness of the government's efforts and indicate the potential misery, but also to offer a possible solution to the crisis. One that is not only beneficial for everyone, but also tempting to those, who will potentially implement it. Ambition is a key driving force in politics - the opportunity to record their names in the history of Europe as facilitators of the peace process could evoke enthusiasm in the political elite of a small and peripheral EU Member State, compelling the current militancy to evaporate.
Latvia may still manage during its presidency to implement or commence a grand diplomatic process – to lay the foundation for the relief of tension between the West and Russia. Riga still has an opportunity to become a ‘second Helsinki’. This is precisely what should be discussed during the conference on May 22 devoted to ‘the Eastern Partnership’ - how to end the conflict in Ukraine, to restore the EU-Russia cooperation, cooperation between Russia and NATO. Instead of categorically declaring it to be a ‘wartime summit’ (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Edgars Rinkēvičs).
I would personally advise this to the government of Latvia, unfortunately it automatically rejects the ideas of the opposition. Respected politicians from Brussels, Berlin or Paris in turn, by wrapping this offer into various compliments and promises of a lovely perspective (in other words – of a career in Brussels) might really be able to entice the presently militant government of Latvia to turn from ‘hawks’ into ‘doves’.
As I have already highlighted, ‘Helsinki-2’ and peace in Europe might only be possible in a dialogue between the US and the leaders of Russia. Unfortunately ‘Minsk-2’ was all Europe could accomplish. Although the invested effort and the attained results should not be belittled, the score is ruthless - Europe itself does not have a plan for peace in Ukraine, all it can ensure is just another truce under other provisions.
Currently, the dialogue between the two superpowers seems unlikely. Putin is offended, Russia is offended and does not believe anyone. Obama is in fact already ‘packing suitcases’ and is not ready for serious initiatives, whereas the Congress is ‘digging up the war axe’. ‘For both presidents ‘Helsinki-2’ is a risky venture. They receive the following domestic criticism: ‘who do you want to reconcile with – you should not trust him! Furthermore, during the negotiations you will nevertheless have to engage into some kind of trade-offs – you will not win!’ However, we remain in the hope that Obama and Putin wish to prove that they are capable of not being hostages to the militant inertia. They are aware that the ‘hawks’ might become so absorbed by the game that the earth will fall from its orbit. The hope remains that Obama wishes to ‘leave beautifully’. If not, then Europe will have to wait for a ‘fresh’ President of the United States - and perhaps also of Russia. To wait for a long time. Relentlessly long time.
Author: Jānis Urbanovičs
Whilst the significant date is approaching, a concealed internal tension is maturing in the coalition government. This year the level seems to appear particularly high due to the fact that Riga is perceived as “the European Capital”. Conceivably, some ministers would truly honour their chairwoman’s i.e. Laimdota Straujuma’s sever forewarning to venerate Legionnaires everywhere apart from the veneration at the Freedom Monument. It is both due to the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU and the diplomatic crisis between the West and Russia. Furthermore, it is unpretentiously owing to the fact that the 13th parliamentary elections appear to be afar in order to risk one’s portfolio. Nevertheless, the Prime Minister is not capable to give orders to Saema MPs. It is alike the cities and districts councillors who have almost worked for the half of the term of office. Or similarly to an ambitious official from the National Armed Forces who meditates about his future after retirement. It is likewise the NAF Commander Juris Dalbins (Juris Dalbiņš) who demonstrated in 1998 how simple it was to gain political capital and turn it into a parliamentary mandate by the means of the defiant resistance to the national official stance.
In order to put an end to the speculation with the national reputation, the government barely possesses two options for action i.e. “Nobody shall go” or “Let’s go all”. Though the analogues past experience demonstrates that it is impossible to guarantee that none of the representatives from the ruling party would publically attempt to manifest Latvia as Hitler’s ally. It would require such a fundamental position and such draconian penalties which the “centre-right” party could afford by no means. However, after Einars Cilinskis’s resignation last year, “UNITY” and “Union of Greens and Farmers” ought to have threatened “All For Latvia!” that their inclusion on the 12th Saema list of candidates would signify the presence outside the government. Correspondingly, all attempts, executed by politicians and historians, in order to explain to the society the reasons why the demonstrative glorification of the Latvian Legion harms the Latvian national interests, i.e. it is necessary to consider the substantial amount of voters’ delight about every current “hero” of March 16, have been vain. Therefore, there will always appear a politician who, after having calculated the risks and the benefits, would follow Dalbins’s (Dalbiņš) and Cilinskis’s footsteps.
Another option “Let’s go all”, unless the Latvian centre-right politicians had enough courage, under certain circumstances, would prove to be an efficient way to steal the charm of this event from national radicals’ eyes. If March 16 were granted statehood, if the placement of flowers were more an officious event then the Radicals would modestly disappear among the crowd remaining without the anticipated scandal and political capital. Nevertheless, in that case the state authorities should be able to fill the event of March 16 with a certain great national significance and make it “more understandable for Europe”. It is merely problematic due to the fact that for Legionnaires the event which took place in 1944 is significant as the exception authorised by law i.e. that time the Latvians under the forced oath to Hither were given a chance for a very short moment to feel that they were the ones they could not be: the members of Latvian Army. That is why the government has to clench their teeth and hope to endure it by some means.
Currently, the government truly should not rely on the fact that under these tense circumstances none of politicians would fancy exposing himself or herself as a provoker and/or a blockbuster of Latvian foreign policy. In addition, only the National Alliance representatives are capable to generate reputation problems related to March 16 to EU presiding country and NATO prescriptive national government. Furthermore, “UNITY” and “Union of Greens and Farmers” do not lack radically inclined people who foresee their political future in straightforward competition with the National Alliance and in winning over the electorate. Straujuma along with the National Security Committee Salvita Aboltina (Solvita Āboltiņa) and the Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis (Raimonds Vējonis) do not possess any illusions about the occurrence. National radicalism is not powered by national interests, but a completely different logic. Therefore, the Presidency of the Council of the EU or even the threat of a possible military conflict is becoming an additional temptation i.e. these aspects provide further resonance for politician’s feat of arms.
All extremely centre-right ones are not concerned whether to act for the sake of the state power or to some extent underground whilst the development of “the tradition” March 16 seems to be treasured as an opportunity to express publicly their contempt towards transatlantic, European and Western democratic values. US diplomats and militants who currently are being required to attend to the peremptory demands to defend Latvia from the proclaimed possible Russian invasion are apparently aware of the fact. (It might occur that this year on May 9 in order to glorify World War allies at Victory Memorial to Soviet Army not only Western diplomats are going to head “ demonstratively” but also American soldiers deployed in Adazhi (Adaži). There certainly never has been anything anti-Russian at the Freedom Monument in terms of annual scandal despite militantly proclaimed rhetoric and that is the reason why it fits idyllically into the conception of “revival of fascism”. It has been speculated with public euroscepticism, hostility towards “foreign dictation” and fears of “Annual Yalta where the West is going to reprove us again” though reproducing the destructive fad that all what Latvians during their lives could merely rely on is a dug bunker in the wood and a “Schmeisser” kept behind the roof rafters. Moreover, the feeble objections of still alive Legionnaires to the politicization and harmful effect to Latvia have been irrelevant for a long time. They have shrewdly been transformed into the decorations of the event and the annual demonstration at the Freedom Monument would take place despite the absence of the old men.
Author: Jānis Urbanovičs
The recent tragic events in France have provoked pre-apocalyptic spirit in Europe and undoubtedly in Latvia. The mass media are anticipating a clash between two civilizations with bated breath. The warriors obtained an additional exterior enemy who could be openly loathed and attempted to be wiped off the face of the earth. A hysterically inclined group of people have attained an opportunity to grieve over the upcoming end of the Western world and its total surrender to Sharia law. Radical politicians are rubbing their hands in hopes of gains of supporters and secret services are awaiting an increase in the funding.
Hitherto, at least rhetorically, the European countries and the leaders of the EU have been seeking rational solutions in order to stabilise efficiently their relations with the Muslim world with all its diversity and contradictions. At this point, first and foremost, it is necessary to understand the unique nature and importance of the moment. Not to fall into a stupor from the predicted horror, on the contrary attempt to rise above the “point of few” in order to understand that the only correct and necessary steps will be those which shall not only calm down the crisis, but also become the sprout of Europe’s new potential prosperity.
It is evident that any struggle of the West against terrorism will be fruitless until jihadists, who have declared a holy war, are confident of the solidarity in the Muslim (Sunni) majority. Undeniable, it is sometimes solidarity with clenched teeth as there is very little enthusiasm in Islamic countries and nations about the prospects of a dictatorship established by Sharia dogmatists, which means a forced return to the early Middle Ages. For the Muslim world, the radical Islam is a much more disastrous problem than for Europe, yet mass media were always, beyond any doubts, less interested in the death of local Kurds than in the attack on journalists in Paris. Nevertheless, this trouble, which is common for both the Christian and Islamic worlds, or, being more precise, the ways of escaping this misfortune, could become the cornerstone of mutual co-operation and interaction along with conclusive attraction of vast “silent majority” of Muslims, who are now, in the most secret depths of their sub-consciousness, not in opposition to somebody seeking vengeance upon the “Christian world” for its eternal arrogance and disrespect. The West has nothing to attract the minds and souls of those who have not become yet, but may soon become its adversary. The enticement by the benefits of civilization, which in fact means imposing the morals of the consumer society, reduces relationships to market concepts i.e. I am your friend until it profitable to me, however if somebody promises more, well, there is nothing personal... Considering these circumstances, suicide bombers may seem downright heroes i.e. their reckless sacrifice in the name of the Great Creator touches much deeper chords of human’s soul than neat Christmas markets in the name of the same...
The deeply rooted superiority of a “white man”, who plays with pleasure the role of an elderly brother, the confidence of indisputable supremacy of the civilization of Judo-Christians, even though it is evidenced by economic, technical and military achievements, not to mention the standards of living, have played a bad joke on the West. Until recently, it looked like an indisputable game i.e. we have aircraft carriers, drones and cloned sheep, but you have carpet weaving, camels and kebabs. Therefore, exotic sons of deserts, you should mind your place in this world, otherwise... Hence, to win the confidence of Muslims, the European leaders shall probably have to commence with a clean slate. The previous approaches and methods not only malfunction, in addition they cause discontent, destruction and death.
The long lasting military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that jihadists are capable of neutralizing all technical achievements of the West, as they can take possession of the most effective ones with rather primitive means, such as petrodollars, markets of illegal weapons and corruption. Today, NATO is well aware of how erroneous were their hopes to eliminate the hotbeds of terrorism by military means such as missiles. Thus, the global violators of universal peace, no matter whether pacified or dead, immediately became glorious heroes who fell in defence of a just case, but the regular troops who punished them bear the indelible stigma of “state terrorists”.
The next act of this global drama may be logical, but therefore not less horrible. Shall not this confrontation finally lead to completely symmetric return strikes against ships and air bases of the Alliance? Thus, maybe utilising with the same missiles.
Hence, it is possible to extirpate the roots of the jihadist terror, although it is not an effortless mission. It might require more courage than taking a decision in order to form a peace keeping contingent. After all, it will be crucial to commence with creating spiritual community. The EU must dare to offer its Islamic neighbours, and needless to say, its own citizens a broader co-operation along with conditions for a deeper bilateral integration based on common values. Above all, our ancestors took care of these common values at the time of the Old Testament.
Taking interest in the confrontation of Christianity and Islam, we unpardonably rarely remember that along with Judaism these three beliefs constitute “three religions of Abraham”. All the three religions consider this patriarch of the Old Testament, chosen by God, as their common ancestor, all the three religions deem themselves as descendants of Abraham’ Tent in the land of Canaan.
Why would it not become the basis for the Great Judo-Christian-Islamic Europe, which, apart from the EU, likewise includes the Mediterranean coast of Africa (i.e. The Maghreb Countries) and the Middle East? Imaginably, subsequently the European Union, which is now experiencing rather bad times, shall obtain tempting targets and a new breath? And in terms of us, Europeans and the adepts of the Judo-Christian traditions (here it would be logical to include agnostics, purely non-believers and even atheists), the reminders of common religious roots are essential in order to reconsider our prejudices concerning Islam as a belligerent religion tending to violence during all 14 centuries of its existence. Should not we wind the film back for six centuries out of 20 centuries of Christianity to remind ourselves about such “pleasant” things as the Inquisition, witch hunts, pogroms and other outrages of Crusades, St. Bartholomew’s Night and so on and so forth? In addition, could one recall the implacable and merciless struggle of Patriarch Nikon during reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church implemented by Peter I, and then the tensed relations between current majority of Islam believers, the Sunnites, and Shiites would seem much more civilized.
Even before the murders in the Charlie Hebdo magazine, French political authorities were forced to admit that their integration policy had failed. Since it assumed (similarly to recently cherished intentions in Latvia) unconditional assimilation of immigrants, their obedient Frenchification with authorities demonstrating their haughty-benevolent disrespect to all those whom the French nation undertook it to make a part of its surroundings. When the ruling coalition of Christians and Socialists in Bavaria rather seriously requested foreigners who had settled in Germany to speak German in their families, there was an impression that these politicians (and their voters) spent in a lethargic sleep at least a century. Whatever illusions a “true European” could create, the concept of nation- state as a sterile mono-ethnic system compiled about 70 years since being unattainable. The carefully built and preserved exception, Israel, only proves this rule. Therefore, the recognition of common values does not mean admitting defeat to an alien culture, on the contrary merely provides basis for a true social integration and multiculturalism, which, apropos, has been recently declared impossible from the highest European tribunes. Fair enough, it is very painful for Europeans to accept the necessity of constructing a Christian-Islamic moral platform, as they consider themselves the apex of creation. Hitherto, the desire to preserve the right to arrogance would bring much more damage and destruction.