Tuesday, January 16th, Ambassador Karlis Eihenbaums attended the departure ceremony in Gagetown (New Brunswick/Canada) for Canadian soldiers who will be joining the NATO multinational eFP battlegroup in Latvia.
Speech of Ambassador during the ceremony.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
Dear Friends! 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 to you here who will be contributing to NATO’s presence and NATO’s visibility in our region. With what you are doing, with what you will do, you are putting yourselves on the front lines of freedom, and you are putting yourselves “on the line” in order to keep world moving forward, and keeping the world away from people who would like to turn back the clock. We want modern times, times of prosperity and innovation, not dark ages or geopolitics from times gone by. We want a foundation of customary international law and a rules-based order under our feet. We want to live by common sense, by the values we hold dear. The life and the freedoms we enjoy were built and fought for by our countrymen from Latvia and Canada. It is precious and it is not a given. We need to defend it continuously. To some extent, or even to a greater extent, staying on the path to progress is ongoing work; it is in your hands and it is on your watch. You are protectors of values. You bear them within you. You embody your country Canada. And you are protectors of an international order that is a foundation for peace and stability. You are NATO solidarity and reassurance in action. You have heard about Crimea, the invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call. Russia put the world on notice that it is ready to cross the line. NATO decided to beef up its preparedness, make itself more visible and more powerful so that no one in their right mind could be tempted to test Alliance resolve or Alliance ability. Those who perceive weakness are tempted to exploit it and this is doubly true in times when there are conscious premeditated attempts to shift the position of the goalposts and cause trouble. Truth itself may be under threat these days. We are up against a media machine that is extremely well funded and well oiled. On top of that, it’s state-controlled. We are up against spin-doctors so skillful at muddling the truth that even well educated people can get disoriented. In this regard, you who are deploying are important not just physically but mentally. You will assess the reality not by reading about it but by being there. In this sense, you will become an antidote to disinformation. You will know what you saw with your own eyes. You will study my country and work to get the story straight. And getting the story straight is important because you are on a mission that depends not only on what happens on land, sea, and air but also on winning in the information space, on the internet. What is “on air” counts almost as much as what is “in the air”. Deployment via Operation Reassurance is deterrence that benefits allies across Europe and especially those situated along the shores of the Baltic Sea: Estonia to the north and Lithuania to the south - but also benefits Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, as well as non-NATO countries like Sweden and Finland. It is noteworthy that two thirds of the 29 countries in NATO have joined the four battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland. So this deployment comes with a clear embedded message. The message is we are multinational. We are not alone. We represent the strongest military alliance the world has ever seen. Canadian generosity and the generosity of other allies stands out for us. We do not take your generosity for granted. We want to pull our own weight. We are training. We are adapting. We are spending two percent of Latvia’s GDP on defense. We are investing in radar, in sensors, night vision, money is going to stuff that boosts our situational awareness and not only. As we invest, I hope we are not forgetting that lots of awesome products are made in Canada. Bombardier jetliners, for example. 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 honourary 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 them came seeking a haven in dark times. You are from a country that Latvians like. They might not be able to tell you exactly why. They may also think that beavertails are beaver’s tails and that you drink maple syrup straight from the bottle. You will soon have a chance to describe yourself to Latvians and say what it means to be Canadian, in person. But seriously - polls prove that Latvians in Latvia see themselves as connected with Canada and drawn to it, as a land of promise, and because they like it that Canadians are friendly and tough. And yes, there is the unmistakable unmissable hockey connection. And Latvia has made that connection stronger by investing in a secret weapon; you know about that, right? We are importing coaches from Canada. Last spring our world championship team was coached by a Canadian - Bob Hartley from Hawkesbury, Ontario. Before Hartley, we had Chief Ted Nolan. We have seen that Canadian coaches give us an edge and in 2014, Latvia came awfully close to beating Canada in Sochi! Dear Friends, You are going to Latvia at a good time – the beginning of the year when we are all making New Year resolutions and renewing our vows to be the best we can be. I know that you will be at your best and allow me to extend my warmest thanks to you and to your families for your contribution to Latvia, to Latvian-Canadian relations, and to the Alliance. The trans-Atlantic bond is intrinsic to European defense. 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. This new year is a good time to make a resolution to hold the line on our personal principles, and the value we place on a rules-based order in which all countries, big and small, can exist and thrive. Latvia welcomes Canada’s contribution to euro-Atlantic defense and we are honoured to soon be hosting you and the talents and energy you bring with you. Thank you for your service!