otrdiena, 2014. gada 1. aprīlis

Latvia to end up all alone against Mr Putin?

Discussing defence. A discussion on FB was triggered by the alarmist interpretation of the warnings offered by Andrei Illarionov, a former advisor to Vladimir Putin. Mr Illarionov suggests his former boss may target the Baltics, Finland and Poland in his “strategy” to “restore” the “empire”. This speculation has captured the imagination of many people, and drawn their attention from the very real and ongoing aggression against Ukraine.

Hysterical alarmism is easier than facing the real challenge. Putin is taking advantage of Ukraine’s being ravaged by decades of corruption and mismanagement. Isn't this enough to worry about? While exaggerating about (at least) Finland and Poland, Mr Illarionov is calling for action now, when Putin is invading Crimea and amassing troops on the Ukrainian mainland border.

It seems that Putin is only waiting impatiently when the West gives him a reason grounded enough to seal the country. Then he’ll crack down on any still creeping and breathing dissent and send his country back to the pre-1862 era, before Alexander II of Russia abolished serfdom, only to throw the country into a bloody mess.

Now about Finland and Latvia that may be at risk.

I am no military expert of course and have no intention to speculate how Finland or Latvia may or may not ward off Russian aggression. I’ll use this opportunity to speculate on my favourite subject of values and identity.

Finland may not me a formal Nato member, but there should not be a single doubt about Finland enjoying all the West's backing, having very strong and influential allies. This is a far more powerful assurance for Finland's security than formal Nato membership for countries such as Latvia or, say, Albania. Of course, Finland would be much better off inside the Nato, so the allies had all formalities clear in advance for engagement in case of emergency. The same goes for Sweden. Still, it is absolutely clear that Finland and Sweden are not alone up against a military threat.

Yes, it is every country's responsibility to defend itself. For such dwarfs like Latvia or Finland, the defence policy should be all about building strong ties, creating associations, earning allies, sharing values and keeping company to those powerful ones. Rather than building muscles. Estonia seems to be learning it as we speak. Lithuania is on its way to it. The keys to our national independence are in the pockets of the Nordics, Brussels, and of course the US. Our security is in being part of the West.

Countries like Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Armenia and unfortunately, Latvia—to a certain extent, definitely more so than Estonia or Lithuania—have been wasting decades now trying to be friends with Moscow while flirting with the West, some countries more, some less, pretending to be "bridges", finding their ways of being “indispensable”.

Even today, ten years after Latvia joined the Nato and the EU, Latvia still has not realised there are no empires left in the world. There is no one to rule the world. There are no uniform consolidated interests that the West would pursue with all its might, apart from those of defending the values of democracy, freedom and liberties shared by Western societies.

In this respect, it is extremely important to acknowledge that there is no adversary to Moscow in its raid against Ukraine. There is no adversary that could justify Moscow’s use of military force. Moscow is all alone in this “battle”—in pillaging, lying and triggering a new war.

The West is not shopping in Europe, because Europe is core West and Europe is where liberal values are not questioned. The West does need to “shop” in other countries, in order to buy peace and at least a chance for a better future for everyone.

The West now seems to be forced to “shop” in Ukraine, offering loans to save Ukraine from bankruptcy, a logical consequence of the kleptocratic regime in Kiev. Many Latvians would imagine the West should be shopping in Latvia to reward them for their “loyalty” to Brussels. The West wouldn’t do this in Europe.

But if it shops somewhere, this place does not belong to Europe, not part of the West. This is somewhere else, low life, where the West may or may not get involved to protect someone from mass murder, atrocities or a foreign aggression. Non-Europe is lower or no priority.

This is why Finland is protected and Estonia is in a good position, whereas Latvia may want to get busy fixing up gaps in its Western identity.

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