RIGA - There is a fifty-fifty chance that Russia will attack Ukraine, and uncertainty in Eastern Europe has increased to a very high level, political scientist Karlis Dauksts told LETA.
The United States' warning that Russia could attack Ukraine on February 16 did not materialize. According to Dauksts, this is a very important development. He believes that it was a Russian "PR campaign" to show that Western intelligence services could not predict the situation. It is also an attempt by Russia to show the world that it itself will decide the timing of an attack or retreat.
Speaking about Russia's future actions, Dauksts said it was not easy to predict what Russian diplomacy would be like in the near future, as the entire decision-making process was concentrated in one person's hands, and that person was Russian President Vladimir Putin.
According to Dauksts, the declaration approved by the Russian State Duma on Tuesday, calling for Putin to recognize Donetsk and Luhansk as independent republics, is a new turn of events. The political scientist pointed out that it would be necessary to introduce certain sanctions, however, foreign ministers of the European Union member countries have not been able to agree on sanctions.
Dauksts believes that a new round will begin in diplomatic relations, because Russia wants to maintain its sphere of influence and control or influence the situation in Eastern Ukraine with the help of these "republics".
The current situation has already exposed lack of ironclad unity in the EU and many differences of opinion. Putin had not achieved a military or economic victory, but he has made Russians believe that he has forced the West to talk to himself, which was unacceptable just a few months ago.
"Before the upcoming elections in 2024, Putin is demonstrating his leadership. With the help of Donetsk and Luhansk, he will be able to show his electorate that he did not subjugate Ukraine with the armed forces, he was saving lives of citizens instead. I think the Russian president wants to show that he is the main guarantor of the Russian world," said Dauksts.
Asked whether Europe can rest assured that its fate will not be decided in other countries' talks with Russia, Dauksts said that he was rather skeptical because both Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden were looking for a real agreement. He believes that the leaders of Russia and the United States are hoping only for mutual talks and decisions that can then be "dictated" to a divided Europe.
He pointed out that Germany, under Chancellor Olaf Scholz, had become weak and controversial and was beginning to lose its leadership in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is facing upcoming elections.
Some countries, such as Hungary and Poland, have released rather ambiguous statements. In the meantime, the British are forming their own union between London, Warsaw and Kyiv, which is a completely different geopolitical project. There are also attempts to establish an alliance in Northern Europe, which would include Latvia, Finland and Sweden.
When asked about security of the Baltic countries and Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, Dauksts said that Article 5 would not be invoked automatically. "It does not work automatically. What will Turkey do, for example, will it rush to defend the Baltic countries? We have to be very careful, because geopolitically and geostrategically, the Baltic countries are not in the best position," said Dauksts.
When asked what Latvia should do, Dauksts emphasized that a lot depended on Latvia's internal stability and morale. He pointed out the importance of the unity of society, social wellbeing, and strengthening of mutual trust between the people and the government.
"There has to be interaction between the country's strategic interests and every citizen, so that all people know that they are involved in strategic stability. At present, the comparatively low popularity of the government and the ruling coalition is one of the most important threats to national security," said Dauksts.