Video credits: Canadian Army
Wishing the best to Canadian troops deploying to Latvia, address by Kārlis Eihenbaums, Ambassador of Latvia.
Ottawa, January 2021
Dear soldiers and officers, friends!
I would like to say a few words about Canada, Latvia, and the NATO battlegroup that you are about to join:
Thank you to all those who have prepared the way for the enhanced forward presence in Latvia. And a very warm thanks to you — who will personally be contributing to NATO’s presence in Latvia, and visibility in our region of northern Europe.
In June 2020, three years have passed since Canadian-led troops were first deployed in Latvia and you are very welcome to continue.
What is Latvia? My personal answer is that Latvia is both an idea and a political reality, but historically this has not always been the case at the same time. The last hundred years saw brutal invasions, oppression, and destruction from external powers — especially from some of our big neighbours. But still, we persisted, again and again.
Defence and freedom have been closely connected in Latvia’s turbulent history and are evermore important for all of Europe since the Russian invasion of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014. And so, we warmly welcome Canada’s contribution to global peace and stability.
With Canadian deployment to Latvia and the ongoing presence in Ukraine, Canada is helping to deal with new threats and dangers aimed at the heart of western values: rule of law and democracy.
Timing is important here, and that’s why we’re happy to have this enhanced forward presence in the Baltics and Poland.
It’s solidarity in action and exemplifies precisely what NATO is. More than two-thirds of NATO’s members are taking part — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year — to keep our values alive. The Latvian armed forces are proud to host 10 of these nations.
We can all see that NATO is community of like-minded nations, working together to keep the peace. When one member needs support, the rest will come to help, to get their back. These deployments are everything that is right about NATO and they are only getting stronger.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many diverse communities in Canada who feel a close connection to the countries around the Baltic Sea, and Europe in general — through history, family roots, and friends. For these communities, Canada’s support is extremely important.
In these times where we face multiple challenges, including a global pandemic: the situation is not easing, but requires permanent attention and monitoring.
Truth and facts are often under threat these days. We are up against extremely well-funded, well-oiled, state-controlled media. This propaganda skilfully muddles the truth so much, so that even well-educated people can become disoriented.
In this regard, you will assess the reality not by reading about it, but by being there and seeing it first-hand. In this sense, you will become an antidote to disinformation. You will know what you saw with your own eyes. You will be in a position to get the story straight.
This enhanced defensive presence, this deployment benefits all of our friends and allies across Europe.
As a former historian, the lessons that I’ve learnt from the past — such as the Hitler-Stalin Pact in 1939 to carve up Europe, triggering the start of World War II — coupled with aggressive attempts to redraw European borders in recent years, remind me that we need to do all that we can to eliminate the temptation that some people may have to annex territory that does not belong to them.
NATO’s decision to deploy these battlegroups came after Russia placed three new divisions in close proximity to NATO’s eastern frontier.
And as we can clearly see, there have been many benefits from the enhanced forward presence battlegroups. This deployment has opened up an entirely new world of cross cultural collaboration and communication between NATO members, opportunities for development between European and our transatlantic neighbours. Soldiers and officers in the field are making important discoveries during everyday training on, for example, how to mix kit from different nations to ensure that tanks roll out, troops are fed, and communications are solid. All is working and working well.
Latvia is about to become your home away from home.
Latvians are proud of their own soldiers, and they will look upon you as honorary countrymen and women, 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 here seeking a safe haven in dark times.
You are from a country that Latvians like and respect. Polls show 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, but fair.
Then there’s also the hockey connection: our common love for this undoubtedly great game. The first official hockey game in Latvia was played on 15th February 1909 in Riga.
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.
The Canadian Prime Minister, 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.
To me, serving as Ambassador of Latvia to Canada and having had the honour to meet Canadians from every province and territory, it makes sense that this country — Canada — which sees diversity as a strength, has had so much success leading the most diverse of all NATO battlegroups.
We welcome Canada’s contribution to Euro-Atlantic defence and are honoured that Latvia is the host country for the Canadian-led NATO battlegroup. Canada is confirming that it is ready to stand up and fight for our common values in the face of those who seem uncertain about the distinctions between good and evil. It also demonstrates that Canada is ready to square off with those who, unfortunately, have not learned the lessons of history.
More than ever, people around the world seek progress — prosperity, innovation, and peace — not the dark ages, or geopolitics from a bygone era.
We need a foundation of customary international law and rules-based order under our feet. We need to live by common sense, and by the common values that guide the way by which we already live.
Personally, I am happy to see Canada so prominently represented, particularly in Europe. Your presence and leadership in NATO and in the Baltic region is important and highly appreciated by all.
I think that it is truly important to look beyond the immediate horizon, toward a better time. But it’s just as important to face our realities. The life and the freedoms that we all enjoy were built and fought for by our families and friends. They are precious and we must not take them for granted. They require our constant vigilance and defence.
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.
The New Year is a good time to make a resolution to ourselves. To hold the line on our own personal principles. The value that we place on a rules-based order in which all countries, big and small, can co-exist, co-operate, and thrive.
We are honoured to be hosting you soon: with the many talents and energy that you bring with you. I am proud to serve alongside you – men and women in uniform — as one of the great privileges of my life.
Have a safe trip!
Thank you for your service!