Zatlers to visit Kremlin

  • 2010-07-14
  • By Kira Savchenko

President Valdis Zatlers has been invited to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow. Both sides strongly believe that the visit, which has been delayed for three years, will at last happen in a couple of months. The heads of state plan to discuss economic issues and to sign some important agreements.

Zatlers was invited to Moscow the first time in 2007, right after his election. However, the meeting with then Russian President Vladimir Putin did not take place. According to Russia’s ambassador in Latvia, Aleksandar Vishnyakov, Latvia’s judgemental position on the Georgian war was unacceptable for the Kremlin. However, unofficial sources said that Putin could not forgive Zatlers’ bold speech against Russia’s policy during the NATO summit 2007 in Bucharest. Finally, Valdis Zatlers attended Moscow on May 9, Russia’s Victory Day celebration, but no negotiations were held. The visit brought up wrangling in Latvian society and media over whether the president had to accept the invitation to attend.

The invitation from Medvedev was brought to Zatlers by the head of the Russian president’s administration, Sergey Narishkin. The date for the meeting has not been set yet, but preparation for the visit has already begun, said Edgars Rinkevics, head of President Zatlers’ Chancery.

“A group of experts is working on the president’s timetable and visit content right now. We have a lot of issues to discuss with Russia. The date could be set when we finish.”

There are about seven to 10 conventions to sign, economic ones in particular, said Narishkin after meeting Zatlers in his Jurmala residence. “We will make sure that all documents are ready for signing when Mr. Zatlers is in Moscow. There are several agreements on combating crime, avoiding double taxation, on investment safety, etc.”

Analysts consider that this time the visit will finally happen, however Zatlers has to be extremely cautious to keep balance between pragmatism and dignity. “This invitation from the Kremlin is a result of hard work during the past two years. This meeting will be tough for Zatlers, who will have to concentrate on business and diplomatically avoid historical issues. It is not that we do not have to talk about history, but there should be reasonable limits,” said Maris Riekstins, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

It’s strange that during the past several years Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was able to find time for Aigars Kalvitis, the former prime minister of Latvia, to have lunch together, when, at the same time, Zatlers was not even invited to Moscow, said Andris Spruds, a political analyst.

“You always have to be very careful while negotiating with Russian officials. I am sure that Dmitry Medvedev will try to manipulate Valdis Zatlers. The thing is, we need Russia, but it is very easy to make the situation even worse. The content of the meeting has to be very [well] thought-out, otherwise it will look like the Latvian president is running to the Kremlin cheerfully on his knees,” cautioned Spruds.

The Latvian economy is the most vulnerable in the European Union, which makes us a good target for the Kremlin and especially Gazprom. The tiny Baltic state is too dependent on Russian natural gas, and the president and the government should think through any further projects with the giant enterprise, he added.