RIGA - Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (New Unity) pointed out today in the annual foreign policy debate in the Saeima that it has become common practice for regimes of authoritarian and totalitarian states to cover up and justify the actions of their leaders both against their citizens and against other sovereign states.
"Aggressive rhetoric cannot hide the truth - neither Georgia attacked Russia in 2008 nor Ukraine invaded Russia in 2014. On the contrary, it is not NATO that deploys hundreds of thousands of troops and armaments near the Russian border. It is Russia that is carrying out large-scale military maneuvers," said the Minister.
He noted that Ukraine does not threaten Russia. Ukraine wants a peaceful, democratic, European future for its people. The Minister emphasized that Latvia strongly supports Ukraine, as Ukraine has the right to be independent. In addition, peace in Ukraine means peace in Europe and the first line of European defense begins in Ukraine.
Rinkevics emphasized that the decision of Belarus on May 23 last year to force the landing of a civil aviation flight in Minsk and the detention of journalists Roman Protasevich and Sofia Sapega are a clear example of the regime's arbitrariness. He noted that the atrocities committed by the Belarusian security services against its own citizens and the Belarusian opposition continue.
"Russia has done the same in recent years, murdering people inconvenient for the Russian regime outside Russia's borders. At present, there is no sign of a change in the behavior of the two regimes. On the contrary, generally accepted international relations are being ignored and ridiculed, "said the minister.
He considers this is a matter of the rule of law, human rights and the use of internationally banned chemicals against dissenting citizens.
Rinkevics pointed out that the liquidation of the human rights organization Memorial, founded by the Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, and the charges against it were politically motivated. The persecution of Memorial, like the Navalny case, is not an isolated incident. According to the minister, it is part of the Russian authorities' targeted campaign against freedom of expression in Russia, and maintaining pressure and repression against civil society, non-governmental organizations, the independent opposition and the political opposition.
He explained that the Foreign Ministry would continue to advocate for civil society in Russia and Belarus, coordinating support for victims of human rights abuses, strengthening media freedom and promoting democratic change in those countries.
The Minister drew attention to the fact that Russia is an authoritarian state with a revisionist policy. Russia's political and military leadership lives in USSR sentiment and sees the world through this prism, with Russia aiming to restore the model of the empire within its historical boundaries. Russia is trying to challenge the way of life of democracies, especially by challenging international human rights standards and the rule of law.
Rinkevics pointed out that the difficult relations between the Euro-Atlantic area and Russia have existed for more than a decade, but the tensions have been dangerously high since the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilization of Eastern Ukraine. The events of recent weeks around the Russian-Ukrainian border have exacerbated these tensions, which could result in Russia's or its mercenaries' armed actions against Ukraine.
"Russia is Latvia's biggest neighbor and at the same time our biggest political challenger. We have no illusions. We know our neighbor and have experienced Russia's behavior for centuries. It has been particularly violent in the twentieth century. Latvia's history clearly confirms its belonging to Europe and European values," said the Minister.
He added that the collapse of the Soviet Union was one of the best events of the twentieth century, allowing many nations captured by the Bolsheviks and imprisoned to regain their freedom and return to the ranks of European nations.
He noted that Russia's attempts to re-write the historical role of the Soviet Union at the international level, diverting attention from the crimes and illegalities it had committed, were on the rise. Latvia is clearly aware that the events of 1918, 1940 or 1991 are not history alone. There are also attempts to re-write the principles on which the post-Cold War world geopolitics is based on, and to return to the principles of pre-war division of influence. Historical analogies are the basis for modern ambitions, the minister said.
Rinkevics pointed out that in the case of Latvia, the Kremlin's attempts to rewrite the country's history are for the most part nothing more than attempts to question the sovereign choice of the Latvian people and Latvia's existence in the European and transatlantic community.
He also noted that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has done a lot to explain Latvia's history and past to the Allies, as well as to the diaspora, for whom a common historical consciousness and sense of identity is very important for maintaining ties with Latvia. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to pay due attention to the explanation of the country's past and history outside Latvia, which is not only of great cultural-historical or intellectual significance, but also of real political significance.
"Unfortunately, there are no signs that Russia will change its behavior in the coming years. Russia's political and military leadership continues to fight its imaginary ghosts. Russia has consistently pursued a confrontational foreign policy. Last year has clearly shown Russia 's hostile actions not only in the neighboring countries, but also in further - the Balkans, Middle East, Africa, North and South America," the minister said.
He noted that all these years Latvia has advocated a realistic approach to relations with Russia both regionally and globally. It is important to maintain open channels of communication, both in bilateral relations and within international organizations, but also taking a firm stand and expressing a clear position on issues of principle.
According to the Minister, these are issues where co-operation is possible in case of mutual interest. He emphasized that a well-developed cooperation strategy with Russia was not only possible but necessary. International arms control, global climate change, international trade, the issue of Iran's nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament are just some of the issues that need to be addressed.