Ambassador of Latvia to Canada Kārlis Eihenbaums shares his opinion on “Money, troops wasted on non-existent Russian threat" by Scott Taylor, published on 4 February 2018 in “The Chronicle Herald”.
TEXT OF LETTER
In the 4 February article entitled “Money, troops wasted on non-existent Russian threat” published in the Chronicle Herald, the author, evidently in eagerness to prove his point - if it is really his own point - makes some blatantly false assertions. For example, the article says that the Latvian economy has been in “free fall” since 2004 when it joined the EU. Really? The author sees doom and gloom in the free movement of workers in the European Union. Really? Sounds to me like a good passport to have. If you don’t have an EU passport, wouldn’t you like to have one? My country is made to look like an utter wreck in this article, an economic basketcase fit only for the handouts of an unhinged philanthropic organisation. A wreck but, I should add, with GDP growth equalling or exceeding that of Canada. In response to this strange warping of the world and what is going on in it, I would suggest that the author go on a visit Latvia (it may hold some bright surprises for his gloomy perspective) and I would like to provide some fact-based comments, if you have a moment to spare.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the NATO multinational battlegroups in Europe.
There are four of them. Three in the Baltic States and one in Poland; all fully operational. Canada is not going it alone. Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States are each leading a multinational battlegroup. The NATO deployments as part of “the eFP” – enhanced forward presence - are measured and proportionate. Believe it or not, NATO had no plan and no intention to deploy such forces before Russia’s illegal annexations of Ukrainian and Georgian territory. The aim of the battlegroups is to preserve peace and prevent conflict. And this presence is not so much about defending against an enemy with a knife in its mouth about to come over the hill (ie. some imminent danger) as it is about offering reassurance and reducing the probability of the belief that there is some opportunity to be had in seizing land that does not belong to you. The eFP is there so that thoughts of attack appear very very unsavoury and so that the thoughts of those blessed with sound mind and body do not move in the direction of contemplating an invasion such as the ones in Crimea and parts of Donbas. Allies, by coming as one, convey resolve, determination and cohesion, and that united stand, is at the core of forceful deterrence. Canadians should be proud that they are part of this manifestation of solidarity and Latvians are grateful and welcoming to the Canadians and other Allies that are reinforcing Latvia with their presence.
In another part of the article, the author pokes fun at the aspect of multinationalism in the battlegroup; he criticizes the diversity of the Allies in the group that Canada leads as “framework nation”. Taylor complains that Canada should not be “saddled with a polyglot collection of penny-packet national contingents.” He is referring to Albania, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain which all contribute troops to the Canadian-led battlegroup in Latvia.
No country is better equipped than Canada in promoting multilateralism and interoperability with diverse actors. And isn’t it true that the presence of different nationalities under one flag is a sign of strength and great opportunity to learn as well?
Each country, each nation, has the duty and the right to stand up for itself. All Canadians, all Latvians would greet with open arms a democratic friendly Russia. But it’s not that way at the moment. The language and the actions of Russian leaders including in the large-scale West/Zapad exercises fit into a pattern of a more assertive Russia building up its offensive military might on the Black Sea and Baltic Sea, not to mention the Arctic, Pacific and the Mediterranean. Russia regularly under-reports the number of personnel participating in its military exercises so as to avoid inspection under the international obligations - Vienna Document. Russia fakes news and evidence shows that it has been operating as a cyberpoacher in foreign elections. It is loading its exclave, Kaliningrad, just next to Poland and which can directly reach a large part of Central and Western Europe with nuclear capable Iskander missiles. Given such behaviour, it is incumbent not just upon NATO and Canada and Latvia to be vigilant and hold the line against Russian snubs to international law, but for the entire international community to be conscious of deliberate attempts to erode support for NATO’s battlegroups which are, in effect, ensuring peace, and even promoting investment and growth.
So many judgements depend on where one stands. I invite people to come to Latvia and see with their own eyes our clean, green, and increasingly prosperous country. We do not have the equivalent of beavertails but you can enjoy surfing with internet speeds faster than the one in Canada or the U.S. and at a quarter of the price. Come for a visit and then make informed judgements on whether we are worth it or not.
Kārlis Eihenbaums, Ambassador of Latvia to Canada