RIGA - In the face of Russia's growing imperialism, people around the world need to be told that what Russia is doing is very wrong, that it is very wrong to declare that you are entitled to someone else's country, that you are entitled to someone else's freedom and right to self-determination - that is why the allies have taken their current position on this issue and have made it clear, that they will support Ukraine for as long as necessary, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Intelligence and Security David Cattler told LETA in an interview on the sidelines of the Riga Conference.
Cattler said he understood the Latvian public's concern about the high proportion of Russian speakers supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies, as well as the presence of imperialist sentiments in the minds of some ethnic Russians residing in Latvia.
The NATO assistant secretary general, however, expressed the hope that the eyes and ears of these people, who have left Russia for various reasons, will be open and that their views will change over time, after they have left Russia's authoritarian and repressive society. "We should not forget that people can adapt, their views can change and I think that should happen and will happen when they spend more time in a free environment outside Russia," said Cattler.
At the same time, as an intelligence and security professional, he expressed his belief that Latvia and other NATO countries need to pay close attention to who they let in or keep out, because we need to be sure that the people we decide to let in permanently or temporarily will not pose any threat to us.
"This is important, but it is equally important to recognize and commend the open minds and hearts of the Latvian people in welcoming these people," added the NATO assistant secretary general.
On the problem of Russian imperialism, Cattler highlighted the experience of Latvia and other nations that were once under the Soviet yoke, which they can share in explaining to Americans, for example, "what it was like and what it even meant". "This experience is critically important. I have many close colleagues who lived through the Soviet era and it is very moving to hear people talk about how important freedom is to them, that they will never go back to being dominated by someone else, certainly not by another country," he added.
Cattler stressed that not all Russians share this so-called Russian world view, but it is clear that it is strongly supported by President Vladimir Putin, who constantly repeats all his main points.
"It is therefore very important for the countries of the Eastern flank, for all countries in the alliance and for any democracy in the world to assess what happens when Russia actually acts on these statements," said Cattler. "Even if the killings, rapes and torture, forced deportations and kidnappings that we have seen had not taken place, it is fundamentally wrong to declare that you are entitled to someone else's country, that you are entitled to someone else's freedom and right to self-determination. That is why the Allies have taken the current position on this issue and have made it clear that we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
The NATO assistant secretary general admitted that he had lost confidence that the war in Ukraine would suddenly end one fine day, but he believes that it will take hard work - both politically and militarily - to bring the war to a full conclusion.
He was also cautious about what might happen in Russia after the end of the Putin era. "Nobody knows who would replace Putin. I can see the possibility of the country's leadership coming together and collectively realizing that this illegal war, in which they are also losing, must come to an end. Unfortunately, I also see an outcome where chaos prevails, but the war goes on, and maybe it is even used as a unifying factor to hold the new regime together, whoever it may be", said Cattler.
NATO's assistant secretary general said that Ukraine will endure, Ukraine will win the war and Ukraine will be restored, full and free.
"That is our goal. Not only NATO and EU member states are working on this, but many others - 55 countries from all over the world are involved in the Ramstein format. This is not only because these countries see a Ukrainian victory as just and desirable, but also because this victory is so important for the international order, which is fundamentally based on the rule of law and freedom," he said. "As far as Russia is concerned, we can see a wide range of outcomes. Russia has started an illegal war, it is Russia that is responsible for it, and it is Russia that will feel the consequences of the decisions its leaders have taken.''