On 9 June, in Edmonton, Alberta, Ambassador Kārlis Eihenbaums and Defence Attaché of Latvia to Canada Lieutenant Colonel Agris Ozoliņš participated in the departure ceremony for Canadian Army soldiers deploying to Latvia in support to Operation REASSURANCE.
Ambassador Kārlis Eihenbaums addressed the soldiers, met their family members and took questions from the media.
Remarks of Ambassador Kārlis Eihenbaums:
A few words about Canada and Latvia and the NATO battlegroup you are about to join.
My thanks go to those who have prepared the way for the enhanced forward presence in Latvia and are carrying this puck across the goal line. With what you are doing, with what you will do, you are keeping the clock of the world moving forward. We want modern times, times of prosperity and innovation, not dark ages. So, you are the ones who keep the hands on the clock moving clockwise. You are protectors of values and you bear them within you. You are protectors of an international order that is a foundation for peace and stability. You are NATO solidarity in action. You embody your country Canada.
Crimea was a wake-up call. NATO decided to be more visible and more powerful so that no one in their right mind could be tempted to test Alliance resolve and ability. Those who perceive weakness are tempted to exploit it and this truth is doubly true in times when there are conscious premeditated attempts to shift the position of the goalposts and cause trouble. Despite the outright hostile attitudes and actions, we do not get jittery. Latvia, Canada, and NATO have stuck to a “two-track approach” - deterrence and dialogue. Deployment in the context of Operation Reassurance benefits allies across Europe situated along the shores of the Baltic Sea: Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south - but also Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and even non-NATO countries like Sweden and Finland. It is noteworthy that two thirds of 29 countries in NATO join the four battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland. So the deployment comes with a built-in message, an embedded message. The message is “we are multinational”. We are not alone. We represent the strongest military alliance the world has ever seen.
Latvia does not take for granted Canadian generosity or the generosity of other allies. We are training. We are adapting. And, by next year, we will reach two percent of GDP on defence. We are investing in radar, sensors, night vision, things that boost our situational awareness for things that keep a low profile, flying low and swimming silently. As we invest, I hope are remembering that lots of good things are made in Canada. We are buying Bombardier jetliners; that’s a start.
Let’s note also, we are up against an extremely well-funded well-oiled media machine that is state-controlled. This propaganda media is skillful at muddling the truth so much so that even well-educated people become disoriented and people in Canada are not immune from disinformation. My thanks therefore go not just to Canadian soldiers but to Canadian journalists who find Latvia on the map by actually going there and who weigh their words and study my country and work to get the story straight, not just hearing what they want to hear or what others want them to hear. Because this is a mission that depends not only on land, sea, and air but also on the information space...more perhaps than ever before.
Dear Friends, Latvia is about to become a home away from home. You are most welcome! Latvians are proud of their own soldiers and they will look upon you as honorary countrymen, standing up for our land and nation. I give thanks from my heart and I speak not just for myself but for Latvians in Latvia and more than twenty thousand Latvians that are living in Canada, most of whom found refuge in dark times. Here is country that Latvians like. They might not be able to tell you exactly why. Polls prove that Latvians in Latvia see themselves as connected with Canada and drawn to it, as a land of promise, and because Canadians are friendly and tough. And yes, the hockey connection. You know we have a secret weapon. Coaches from Canada. This spring our world championship team was coached by a Canadian - Bob Hartley from Hawkesbury, Ontario. Before Hartley, we had Chief Ted Nolan and in 2014 we came awfully close to beating you in Sochi! Latvians recently polled thought Canada is a country where people drink maple syrup straight from the bottle and not just for breakfast with their pancakes. Latvians probably think that beavertails are beavers’ tails. Anyway, you will soon have a chance to explain what it means to be Canadian in person. You picked the right time of year to go. You are in time for Jāņi – the summer solstice, a great northern midsummer festival, when the sun “stands still” everywhere in the world because that's what solstice means in Latin – the moment when the sun stops moving in one direction and starts moving in another. What the rest of the world doesn’t know is that the only reason the sun does actually start moving again is because we release it back into the wild. With meadow grasses thick and tall, and flowers in full bloom, and the rare ferns which also only bloom at this time of year if at all, there is a mystery in the air, and myths and folklore are brought to life. Latvians stay up all night, and when the sun sets, they sing magical songs to make it rise again. The good news is that, to date, Latvians have never failed to make the sun come up again at midsummer. Anyway, this is a good time to be going. An auspicious time taking into account the spirit of our ancestors.
Many many thanks to you and your families for your contribution to Latvia, to Latvian-Canadian relations, and to the Alliance. From Latvia’s perspective, the trans-Atlantic bond is intrinsic to European defence. There is no substitute for this bond and Canada’s presence in Latvia will strengthen that bond and strengthen the peace in our peace-loving Baltic Sea region. We welcome Canada’s contribution to euro-Atlantic defence and feel lucky that Latvia will be the host country.