On 26 January, Latvia’s President Egils Levits issued a statement on the growing threat of Russian aggression against Ukraine and demands towards NATO, where he slammed Russia’s “intention to rebuild the Soviet Empire,” as “stuck in the categories of 19th-century imperialism” and urged to meet it with arms for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia.
He called Russia’s demands towards NATO, including the withdrawal of NATO troops and equipment from 14 NATO members that joined after 1997 and guarantees that NATO will not expand eastward, a “new dimension in Russia’s aggressive rhetoric”:
“Since the 2008 invasion of Georgia and aggression against Ukraine from 2014, Russia is demonstrating its intention to rebuild the Soviet Empire, which collapsed between 1990 and 1991 as a result of the efforts of oppressed nations longing for freedom. Russia’s political thinking is stuck in the categories of 19th-century imperialism when the greatness of the country was measured by the size of captured territories and Europe was divided into spheres of influence.”
He added that:
“No matter how hard Russia tries the wheel of history cannot be turned back. Russia’s way of thinking and its claims against NATO as an organization, against NATO members and against Ukraine are unacceptable. Spheres of influence or areas of privileged interest have no place in today’s Europe and the world. They are contrary to the principles of peace set out in the 1945 UN Charter, to international law, to the right of peoples to self-determination, to the basic principles of democracy. Each country has the right to choose its own defense policy, its allies, and the organizations it wants to join. A country that is aggressive and wants to bring back the past does not engender trust in its neighbors.”
Mr. Levits said that Russia’s demands cannot be the basis for dialogue, and are not negotiable. He called upon the US, NATO, and EU to meet the threat of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine with a strong response, including the supply of arms and military equipment to Ukraine, economic sanctions against Russia, and the redeployment of NATO military units within member states.
Levits’ statement came on the heels of a decision of the US to place 8,500 troops on alert for redeployment to Eastern Europe.
He also stated that Latvia supports strong and effective sanctions against Russia if it invades Ukraine and reiterated Latvia’s intentions to send air defense missile systems and other equipment to Ukraine.
Following reports that the US has cleared Britain and the Baltic states to send US-made weapons to Ukraine, Latvia’s Defense Minister Artis Pabriks has confirmed Lativa, Lithuania, and Estonia will indeed send arms to Ukraine.
“The Baltic states will send “Stinger” and “Javelin” systems, as well as various individual equipment to help Ukraine to strengthen its defences. I strongly urge Russia to de-escalate situation at the border with Ukraine and respect its sovereignty,” he tweeted.