Latvija in brief - 2009-11-11

  • 2009-11-11
Russia's recent military exercises in Belarus, near the borders of the Baltic states, simulated a ground and nuclear attack on Poland, according to secret documents obtained by the Polish newspaper Wprost,  reports LETA. Approximately 12,500 soldiers from Russia and Belarus, with 40 military planes and 200 transport vehicles, participated in the 'Zapad-2009' military exercises in Belarus in September. The Russian Air Force was training dropping nuclear bombs, while in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad army units practiced beach landings and attacking gas pipelines. The military exercises in Belarus also included the crackdown against national minorities. Belarus has a substantial Polish minority, which does not have the best of relations with Belarus' authoritarian regime. Moscow and Minsk though maintain that the goal of the military exercise was to "ensure strategic stability in the Eastern European region." Warsaw has submitted a protest to the European Commission.

Despite recent war games simulating attacks on Latvia and its neighbors, the Belarusian government has expressed its clear desire for closer cooperation with Latvia in the transit sector. Latvia's Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins (People's Party) pointed out that during their meeting early last week, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko clearly expressed his desire to utilize Latvia's transport and transit services, reports LETA. "I believe that this is a strong signal from Belarus that they wish to cooperate with us in this area," the minister said. At the same time, Riekstins emphasized that it is important for Latvia to maintain its competitive services in the Baltic sea region. "One thing is political desire, while economic considerations are a totally different thing," he added. Riekstins was on a working visit to Belarus on Nov. 3, which was the first visit by a Latvian foreign minister to the country since Latvia regained independence.