Solvita Āboltiņa, chairman of the Latvian parliament’s security committee, says that the 100 NGOs in Latvia receiving money from Moscow are not “organizations concerned with the development of the culture and traditions of national minorities in Latvia.”
Instead, the 100 Moscow-backed organizations the Security Police have identified are those which “are carrying out actions hostile to official policy of the state, including those connected with Latvia’s status as an independent state” and such actions must be considered “interference in [Latvia’s] internal affairs.”
The situation in Latvia is less secure than it was a year ago, the deputy says, given Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, its declarations of regret about the demise of the USSR and suggestions that “Latvia is in general not a country but a territory belonging to Russia, Russian overflights of Latvian territory, and Russian military maneuvers near the Latvian border.
What makes all these things especially worrisome, Āboltiņa says, is that they are quite similar to the actions Moscow took before invading Ukraine and Georgia.
Latvians can feel secure because Latvia is a member of NATO and protected by the provisions of Article 5, “but its own security is the greatest task of each country.” And consequently, she adds, Riga is boosting defense spending, although that alone will not be sufficient.
She agrees with her interviewer that “even the strongest army cannot resolve all the problems of the security of the country.” Security is not just blocking invasions; it is about ensuring domestic security, fighting international terrorism, and ensuring that its media freedom is not exploited by those who want to destabilize Latvia.
Āboltiņa says that Latvia devoted too little attention to the impact of Russian television in the past, but it is now correcting this. On the one hand, she says, people should be free to choose what they watch. But on the other, the government has an interest in ensuring that channels which seek to destabilize the situation, as RTR does in Latgale, are countered.
In her view, Latvia does not have the possibility of creating a Russian-language channel of its own that could satisfy all the entertainment needs of the population, even with European support. But it does need to work to create a series of news and information programming for Russian speakers.
Despite some criticism, Āboltiņa says she always speaks Russian with those journalists and others who speak it. Her “position,” she says is that “Latvian is our single state language and speaking it we show respect to it. But if a politician wants to be heard, then it is important to speak on that language in which he wants to be heard.”
Translators, she continues, do not always “catch important nuances,” noting that she often has to correct them. And she “always stresses: in Latvia at all times have lived people of various nationalities and it is important to have a dialogue with them.”
Several upcoming holidays, on March 6 and May 9, are likely to be more explosive this year than in the past, Āboltiņa says, because of the geopolitical situation, Latvia’s current status as chairman in office of the EU Council, and the dangers of terrorism. But precisely because of those dangers, Latvian politicians must be careful.
And she calls on all of them and everyone else as well to attend to the words of Riga Archbishop Jānis Vanags who has pointed out that “Latvia has a very complicated history, that Latvia did not start World War II” – Hitler and Stalin did that – and “that residents of Latvia fought on various sides of the front, but each fought for Latvia.”
Consequently, the Lutheran leader says, “each of them has the right to remember his fallen comrades.” But Āboltiņa says it is imperative and especially in this year of heightened tensions for politicians avoiding making a political issue out of how they do.