It is hard for Vladimir Putin to accept the rules of the game, which have developed over the past 20 years. While the majority of people are happy about the end of the Cold War, it was likely a personal tragedy for Putin, notes foreign policy expert, deputy Chairman of Latvian Transatlantic Organization Žaneta Ozoliņa in her interview to BNN.
According to her, Putin is currently trying to return if not the conditions of the Cold War, then the kind of situation when force has greater meaning than talks.
Ozoliņa agrees with the recently voiced public opinion that Putin’s goal is to weaken Latvia. She believes a weaker Latvia would mean a weaker European Union. However, she adds: ‘I do not think Putin wakes up in the morning, and the first thing he does is think about how to weaken specifically Latvia. His objective is a weak Europe, which is a very short-term and rude point of view to have, because this king of policy may lead to very painful consequences in a long-term perspective. Instead of thinking how to raise people’s welfare and national economy, Putin has chosen to walk a different path – strengthen his positions by weakening his opponents, including physically, which we can see in Ukraine’s case.’
It should be added that LATO has asked the Cabinet of Ministers to immediately react to threats to national security, which are presented by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and threats to Ukraine’s existence. ‘Russia threatens not only Ukraine, but also all of its neighbouring states and Europe as a whole. The government’s attitude towards defence and safety of residents has been irresponsible both in terms of planning reductions to the defence budget and in avoidance to make decisions in regard to the safety of the population. The Cabinet of Ministers should consider performing a full evaluation of risks to national security,’ – as mentioned in the organization’s announcement.
LATO calls the Cabinet of Ministers to provide the Saeima with Defence Ministry’s compiled bill and action plan for the increase of the Defence Budget to 2% of GDP by 2020 before the next Saeima elections. The organization also asks the Cabinet of Minister to limit the availability of EU taxpayers’ finances and export support funding for the duration of the 2014-2020 EU planning period to enterprises that directly depend on markets of countries which have been introduced with international sanctions.
The organization also asks to have the residence permit programme be temporarily halted considering threats to national security. This restriction is said to be imposed against citizens of countries considered hostile to EU and NATO.
The government is also advised to perform measures in regard to gas and electricity market liberalization in order to reduce energy dependence on Russia. Among other recommendations for the government, LATO said it is necessary to strengthen the education programme of national minorities by using EU funding and secure successful transition to Latvian language for the majority of school programmes of national minority schools by 2018.
According to LATO, it is necessary to stop the broadcasting of censored Russian television channels in Latvia. It is also necessary to allocate long-term financing to Latvian social media that broadcast contents in Russian language on television, internet and radio, and provide support for the creation of a Baltic television channel in Russian.
In terms of land security, it is necessary to conclude talks with NATO about the creation of new bases in the country. Interior Ministry and the National Guard should increase funding for personnel and equipment procurement. The Saeima should start organizing annual defence policy debates with participation from social representatives in order to contribute to discussions regarding military threats and priorities of national security.