In relations with Russia, Baltics should arm themselves with strategic patience in the next several years, as stated in Latvia’s Foreign Policy Institute’s compilation on Latvia’s external and security policy.
In his article about Latvia’s and Russia’s relations, CEO of Eastern Policy Research Centre Andis Kudors explained that Kremlin’s desire to control neighbouring states to maintain power in Russia has not allowed a neutral-scientific view on Russia’s history to win. Moscow’s desire to view former Soviet republics as an exclusive interest zone leads to conflicts with neighbours, in which it wishes to realize independent foreign policy. Because it is not in Russia’s power to change the strategic choice of Baltic States in favour of the west, attempts to discredit Baltics in the eyes of their allies still continue. Such a policy also continued last year, Kudors says.
Nevertheless, in spite of Russia’s destructive influence on international relations in Latvia and its reputation on the international arena, Kudors believes Latvia has found middle ground between a pragmatic foreign policy in relations with neighbouring country.
The expert also mentions that last year there were attempts to find opportunities to reduce the sanction burden on Russia, looking for loopholes in EU’s single foreign policy. Latvia’s internal unity in matters regarding Russia was also tested. It did withstand the challenge, the expert said.
According to him, Russia’s presented challenge to the democratic world in the form of the annexation of Crimea has created not just shock, but also measures to prevent security risks. «It can be said that Latvia organized its security policy quickly and decisively. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the soft security field, where Russia’s influence in Latvia is much larger,» – he states in his article.
The Eastern Policy Centre’s CEO also notes that Latvia, similar to Lithuania and Estonia, has gathered much knowledge about the negative influence of Russia’s propaganda and disinformation on democracy and security situation in Baltics. «Unfortunately, Latvia has yet to perform and serious counter-measures,» – Kudors says.
He believes Latvia should continue its participation in EU’s single foreign policy in its relation with Russia. Sanctions for non-compliance with Minsk agreement should remain in force.
It is expected that Russia will continue looking for opportunities to accomplish the cancellation of sanctions in 2017. It is likely focus will be put on communication with the new US president’s administration and certain political powers in Europe, the expert says.
On the level of mutual relations, Latvia should maintain middle ground between a normative and pragmatic foreign policy, maintaining economic cooperation in areas that are not related to the country’s political demands towards Latvia. Latvia and other Baltic States should arm themselves with strategic patience in relations with Russia and prevent it from breaking a hole in the wall of EU foreign policy, says the expert.