Address of Ambassador of Latvia Kārlis Eihenbaums at the Canadian Forces Base Edmonton on 8 January 2020.
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 Canadian deployment to Latvia and the ongoing presence in Ukraine, Canada is helping countries like my own deal with new threats and dangers aimed at the heart of western values, rule of law, and democratic governments.
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 the world moving forward, and keeping it away from those who would like to turn the course of history back to the dark days of constant confrontation.
Canada is confirming that it is ready to stand up and fight for common values in the face of those who seem uncertain about the distinctions between good and evil, and it is ready to square off with those who, unfortunately, have not learned the lessons of history.
We want modern times - times of prosperity and innovation - not the dark ages or geopolitics from times gone by. We want a foundation of customary international law and 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’s in your hands and it’s 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. Let’s also note that we are up against an extremely well-funded, well-oiled, state-controlled media. This propaganda skilfully muddles the truth so much so that even well-educated people become 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”.
This enhanced, defensive presence is a strong confirmation of reassurance and resolve. This deployment benefits all allies across Europe. Whether they are 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 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 defence.
We are making investments, among which money is going to things that boost our situational awareness.
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 them seeking a haven in dark times.
You are from a country that Latvians like, although they might not be able to tell you exactly why. They may also think that you drink maple syrup straight from the bottle. You will soon have the 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 unmistakeable and unmissable hockey connection. Latvia has made that connection stronger by investing in a secret weapon; you know about that, right? We are importing coaches from Canada. 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 the Sochi Olympics!
You are going to Latvia at a good time – the beginning of the year when we are all still making New Year’s resolutions and renewing our vows to be the best we can be.
I know that you will be at your best and please 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.
Recently, in July 2018, your Prime Minister with his extended delegation during his visit to Latvia showed full commitment to continue the work we started together. We look forward to strengthening all of it. Together, we are united in our resolve to protect alliance territories, and prevent conflict.
We welcome Canada’s contribution to Euro-Atlantic defence and feel good that Latvia is the host country for the Canadian-led NATO battlegroup.
Canada’s presence in Latvia is strengthening the trans-Atlantic bond, and keeping the peace in Europe.
Thank you for joining us, and being with us in support of the independence that we all hold dear. This is independence for which a dear price was paid. Independence that should not be treated lightly, or taken for granted
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.
We are honoured to soon be hosting you, with the talents and energy you bring with you.
Happy New Year filled with Peace and Joy!