Article by Latvia's Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins and US Ambassador to Latvia Judith Garber, published on January 20, 2010, in "Diena" (in Latvian) and "Telegraf" (in Russian)
One year ago today, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. Americans, Latvians, and people throughout the world watched with interest as the first American of African descent rose to the highest office in the United States. President Obama’s inauguration symbolized the hope of a new generation of global citizens, and exemplified the change that can come about as a result of the democratic process. For some in Europe, however, the arrival of a new American administration raised questions and expectations for the future of relations between the U.S. and European allies, including Latvia. Now, a year later, we are proud to say that the relations between the people and governments of Latvia and the United States remain as strong as ever.
United in our commitment to democracy and freedom, Latvia and the United States are strategic allies, valued partners, and close friends. Frequent high-level contacts between government and military officials from our countries attest to the importance of this relationship.
These high-level meetings, as well as the ongoing, day-to-day contacts between diplomats, officials, and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, demonstrate the both the depth and strength of our bilateral ties.
The United States, Latvia, and indeed the world face global challenges that may seem daunting. The impact of climate change threatens not only the environment, but also the security and stability of our planet. In both the United States and Latvia, many families are struggling with the effects of the global economic crisis. International efforts to strengthen and stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda continue to pose a difficult and critical challenge. Iran’s nuclear program poses serious concerns for the international community.
But this is not the first time that our countries have tackled global challenges together – and it won’t be the last.
The year that has passed since the arrival of a new U.S. administration has been one of action, but also commemoration and reflection. We have marked a number of important events honoring individuals who triumphed over the overwhelming challenges of their time. We have recalled the landmark events of 1989, the mass movements such as the Baltic Way, which ultimately led to the toppling of the Berlin Wall and the fall of the Soviet empire. The fundamental changes that resulted from these events were not inevitable, but rather the culmination of the efforts of many people – on both sides of the Atlantic. On May 4th of this year, we look forward to commemorating the 20th anniversary of Latvia’s declaration of renewed independence.
On the 60th anniversary of NATO, which we celebrated last year, we paid tribute to the vital partnership between the United States and Europe. The recently adopted Lisbon Treaty further strengthens the role of European Union and its members, including Latvia, in world affairs. The recent establishment of the EU-US Energy Council has set the framework for deepening transatlantic cooperation in the strategic energy sector. As NATO allies, Latvia and the United States sit at the same table in Brussels, deliberating on the most pressing issues of global security, as well as our common allied strategies for future to be included in the new NATO Strategic Concept. In the five and a half years since Latvia joined the Alliance and the European Union, it has consistently demonstrated its commitment to critical trans-Atlantic security missions through deployments in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and other regions important for transatlantic security. Crucial commercial supplies destined for troops in Afghanistan transit Latvia via the Northern Distribution Network, which has a considerable impact on the region. It is hard to imagine a better testimony to the close Latvian – U.S. relationship, based on mutual confidence and trust, than in Eastern Afghanistan where American and Latvian soldiers work side-by-side, training and mentoring the Afghan Army.
Latvia and the United States are also partners in our shared goal of promoting democracy, stability, and civil society among other post-Soviet nations. Latvia stands as a model for the peaceful consolidation of democracy and plays a key leadership role in the region, helping other states undertake political and social reforms. Mindful of our long-standing and close relationship, The United States has relied on Latvia’s experience and expertise in developing its own foreign policy approaches towards Latvia’s eastern neighbors.
The challenges facing our world will not be resolved by any one nation. Global challenges require global solutions. In the early days of Latvia’s regained independence the United States proudly played a guiding, supporting role for Latvia. Today Latvia and the United States being allies are part of international system, sharing advice and counsel and seeking common solutions to our mutual challenges.