Interview of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia to the weekly newspaper HVG

20.01.2017. 12:46

Although Donald Trump’s potential politics raise many questions, I don’t think any catastrophic scenarios will be realized – says Edgars Rinkēvičs, Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs, who thinks Moscow continues its reconstructive politics for the Russian Empire.

How threatening do you think Moscow’s politics is?

I’m certain that the North Atlantic Alliance is taking the appropriate steps to secure its Eastern flank based on the decisions adopted at the NATO summit after the Ukrainian events in 2014. By deploying combat-ready units to the region, it has sent a clear message to Moscow: a possible military action would have serious repercussions. I don’t think the Baltic States are in danger of a conventional war. However, NATO as well as Latvia is still looking for an adequate answer to the hybrid warfare, informational campaigns and cyber-attacks led by Russia. We have to be prepared that “the little green men” may try to create confusion, just like they did in Crimea. I don’t believe that World War III would erupt in Latvia, Estonia or in Lithuania, but we have to pay attention to the grey zones.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, really wants to re-establish the Russian Empire?

It’s not just Putin who stands behind the idea but the broader Russian public who would truly be happy if the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union were re-established at least partially. In Russia, people evoke the old glorious days with nostalgia, and Putin has claimed that the breakup of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy of the XXth century. I think that, actually, the collapse of the Soviet Union was the best that happened last century. In my opinion, the pursuit of re-establishing the empire continues and hybrid warfare instruments will play a serious role in it. We should not panic but we have to warn the world that these aspirations must be opposed. A dual policy is needed, which consists partly of deterrence and, if that fails, the violation of international law must be punished with sanctions. The other factor, like it or not, is to maintain dialogue with Moscow.

The Russian minority in Eastern Crimea would like to annex their half of the country to Russia. A significant number of Russian live in the Baltic States, how do they evaluate Moscow’s intentions?

According to opinion polls, many Russians from among those living in the Baltics support Putin’s politics and accept the annexation of Crimea. However, if you asked them whether they would like that to happen in Latvia or Estonia, the answer was a definite no. For me, the Russian minority in the Baltics certainly does not cause concern; rather, the danger is that the Russian propaganda is trying to influence Germans, the British or Latvians. Everyone has to be aware of this in the EU. We have already been saying it for years that it’s not just about Latvia or Estonia but about the entire continent.

How threating you see that the elected United States president, Donald Trump is befriending Russians? He also hinted that NATO won’t defend the countries that are spending little on their armies.

Let’s wait until the inauguration. I think the campaign is still going on regardless of the elections already being completed. The hearings of the future members of presidential administration’ have not yet taken place, and I hear in public speeches and at private conversations that Trump finds NATO important.

You were the first minister in Latvia who, after taking office, openly came out as homosexual. How did people react to your announcement?

The society accepted it surprisingly well, except a few idiots who started verbal abuse online but you can find these kinds of people in every country. Nonetheless, I think that the entire Baltic region has a long way to go until it can become a truly open society based on true equality. We mustn’t sit down and wait for this process to take place by external pressure. ■

András Németh

Source: HVG weekly newspaper, pp.30

Published on: 05.01.2017

Interviewer: András Németh (e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)