Straujuma in ‘appeasement’ camp

  • 2014-03-19
  • From wire reports, RIGA

Appearing on television network LTV on March 18, Latvian Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma, in giving a passive response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, said that it is still too early to speak about any possible economic sanctions against Russia in wake of the Ukraine-Crimea crisis, reports LETA.

Though blood has now been spilled in the continuing crisis, with one Ukrainian soldier killed, Latvians are left to wonder what it will take for the Latvian prime minister and her government to show a strong and persuasive response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s foreign adventures.

Straujuma, in trying to explain her position, said that at this time the European Union (EU) and the United States are focusing only on political sanctions. She mentioned the planned action by the EU and its three phases - depending how the situation develops further in Ukraine.

"If the situation escalates, then there will be talk of economic sanctions," Straujuma said, though not saying how long she is willing to wait. She added that the EU "will not be indifferent" if Russia makes any drastic move, as if annexing part of a foreign country is not already a “drastic move.”

She then expressed hope that instead, a political dialogue would begin, though this has already been shown to be ineffective with Putin.

Stronger sanctions needed

After a meeting with Latvian President Andris Berzins on March 18, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics (Reform Party) said that imposing sanctions against Russia is a crucial turning point in the way the European Union (EU) thinks.

''Would anyone only just a few months ago have seriously thought the EU would impose sanctions against Russia? I believe not. This is a crucial turning point in the way the EU thinks. No one was happy about this, and no one wanted the events that are currently taking place. But this was our choice, a choice Russian forced upon us,'' the minister said.

He said that the EU sanctions agreed upon on Monday, March 17, is just the first phase. ''The sanctions imposed on Monday are just a warning. If the situation continues to deteriorate, especially in eastern Ukraine, we will take more steps. Thus, I do not rule out also economic sanctions against Russia,'' the minister said.

Asked why sanctions were not imposed against Russia's highest officials, including President Putin, Rinkevics said that ''we should keep communication channels open.”

''There are always possibilities in diplomacy. Things can be talked out. Thus, not all officials have been included on this list,'' the minister added.

The United States and Europe hit Vladimir Putin's inner circle with sanctions on Monday but failed to dissuade the Russian leader from pursuing his apparent goal of annexing Crimea. Japan and Canada have also threatened sanctions against Russia, with Australia imposing sanctions against Russia today.

Military escalation

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday accused the Russian president of attempting to "rewrite the boundaries" of post-World War II Europe, reports AFP. It came as Putin signed a treaty claiming the Black Sea region of Crimea as Russian territory, as Ukraine warned the showdown had entered a "military stage" after soldiers were killed on both sides, the AFP news agency said.

The treaty signing was conducted at lightning speed in the Kremlin in a defiant expansion of Russia's post-Soviet borders that has plunged relations with the West to a new post-Cold War low.

"We've got to do a better job in supporting the government in Kiev, we've got to do a better job in getting Europe to do more for themselves when it comes to energy so they're not dependent," said Clinton, a potential 2016 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate. "It's an effort by Putin to rewrite the boundaries of post-World War II Europe," Clinton, also a former U.S. first lady, told a conference organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, to applause.

"I hope there's not another Cold War, obviously nobody wants to see that. Primarily, it's up to Putin."

Clinton, who narrowly lost the Democratic nomination in 2008, added: "The rationale that Putin uses [in Crimea] - that they were ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, that they've always been part of Russia - it could be extended not only to other parts of Ukraine but also to other parts of Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Transnistria. There are a lot of places where there are ethnic Russians and Russian speakers."

Go, if Russia is home

Clinton could also add to the list London, Brighton Beach in New York, and elsewhere. But Russia does not have the right to intervene militarily in another country, and occupy or annex it, under the guise of “protecting ethnic Russians.” At best, it has the right to lead them to safety, by issuing visas to them and bringing them all back to the safety of Russia. This is what Russia should be doing now, some say: Russia needs to begin to repatriate all ethnic Russians who are outside of Russia back to Russia. The world would then be a safer place.

Former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, addressing an audience at Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida earlier this week, said that President Putin is playing poker with the world and testing how far he can go, reports the Herald Tribune.

''It doesn't take a Ph.D. in psychology to understand that he was power-hungry and fearless and playing poker, if you like, playing chicken with the rest of the world and seeing how far he can get without people finding means to counter his aggression,” she said. “I would say he's had excellent training in practical applied psychology. Meaning, for instance, the character of heads of state he meets, and finding their weak spots and playing upon them. He has a great talent and he's also had great training, I can attest to that.”

Vike-Freiberga also said that Russia will “push as far as they can, and when they are not resisted they will push even further.”