‘An experienced Latvian politician and mayor of a large city speaks of our choice to join the European Union and NATO as though one of Kremlin’s ideologists, outcompeting even Putin’s partner party Harmony Centre’s politicians in his statements,’ – said MEP and Chairman of For Fatherland and Freedom/ LNNK party Roberts Zīle in his interview to BNN in regard to Aivars Lembergs recent statements about NATO’s role in the defence of the Baltic region.
‘I have been working in politics for 25 years. I believe Latvia’s admission into NATO and EU are also a result of my work. So I feel rather disappointed to hear such things,’ – as the politician expresses his disappointment about the recent statements of the Ventspils politician.
BNN had previously reported that Aivars Lembergs’ friendly attitude towards Russia, including his announcement that the only ones who would benefit from the deployment of NATO troops in Latvia would be the prostitutes, has been noted by Russian media.
With that Lembergs managed to ‘express his views’ on Russian television.
According to what Lembergs told the Russian channel, some American soldier could launch a rocket towards Moscow, and this can be done without Latvian government knowing about it, because Americans are the ones order around NATO. As a result, the counter-strike may fall on Latvia. ‘We all know how Americans behaved in Japan, Iraq, Vietnam and many other corners of the world. Latvia has a treaty with USA that states that American soldiers are to be stand trial in USA for any offences they perform in Latvia. This is why I believe it is very dangerous to have foreign military forces present in Latvia,’ – says Lembergs.
It is not the only criticism Lembergs mentions in his interview to Russian media in regard to NATO: ‘Who occupied Gibraltar? NATO member state UK. Who occupied Cyprus? NATO member state Turkey. With that, looking at Europe’s practice in this, NATO member states present the highest threat level.’
Lembergs words have caused concerned talks in Latvia. Deputies of the ruling coalition in Latvia are also baffled by his opinion. They await explanations from the Union of Greens and Farmers as to the thoughts behind their decision to nominate this person as the party’s Prime Minister candidate numerous times.
‘It is unfathomable how the Union of Greens and Farmers could propose a person with such views as a possible candidate for the post of Prime Minister of Latvia. We can only imagine Latvia’s fate if he had become Prime Minister at some point,’ – says Zīle.
He believes UGF should decide whether they, as the political party responsible for Defence Ministry and Latvia’s ties to NATO, represent Latvia as a country tied to Western values or a country turned towards Kremlin’s Eurasian Union ideology.
‘These two political vectors cannot meet. This is why we expect this political party to provide a clear opinion and make a political choice – either such statements are acceptable for them or they are not. If UGF remains silent, then there is a high probability that this party may form a coalition with Harmony Centre or any other pro-Kremlin party that may end up in the Saeima after the elections. This scenario is very dangerous, because it may lead to Latvia’s exit from NATO and notable increase of Russia’s influence,‘ – believes Zīle.
Both Zīle and Reform Party’s deputy Sandra Sondore-Kukule believe Lembergs’ statements are completely unacceptable.
Sondore-Kukule notes that UGF should present a clear position on actions of its partners.
‘I was more surprised not by the absurdity of Mr Lembergs’ words, but by the fact that he seems to actually believe in what he says,’ – said the deputy.
She adds unlike many other countries in the world, there is freedom of speech in Latvia. And the freedom of speech is among the values defended by NATO and European Union. ‘I hope Mr Lembergs can appreciate that.’
Unity’s representative, member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Inese Vaidere told BNN in an interview that Lembergs’ statements came as surprising and equally absurd to her.
‘NATO is the only guarantee of Latvia’s security at the moment. Mr Lembergs might not have noticed what is currently going on in Ukraine and what happened in Moldova and Georgia after Russia’s attempts to create the Eurasian Union or even restore the Soviet Union, hoping to include these countries in it,’ – said Vaidere. At the same time, the MEP said Lembergs does not have the kind of influence to pose an actual threat to Latvia’s security.
Lembergs’ loyalty towards Russia was demonstrated by him several times. He had mentioned once: ‘I know only Russian language. I often tell my son: if you want to do business, you don’t have to know any foreign languages, but you absolutely must know Russian language.’ During the recent event in Ukraine, Lembergs had said it a number of times that Latvia should keep quiet and not try to ‘teach Russia how to live’. One of his latest comments implied the introduction of NATO forces in Latvia would mean a military occupation, similar to the one Latvia suffered in 1940.
Public figures express deep concern over the fact that Kremlin’s main television channel shows how the most popular politician of the Union of Greens and Farmers – Lembergs – openly says NATO is a threat to Europe and Russia. They add that Lembergs’ party For Latvia and Ventspils should be expelled from UGF.
Lembergs’ opinion has not gone unnoticed in Latvia. Social networks are filled with a furious storm over this kind of opinion. High-rank Latvian officials express their thoughts on this as well. Former Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks condemned Lembergs’ statements on his Twitter page; rhetorically asking if anyone in Ventspils would like to follow the example set up by Donetsk – request independence and join Russia.
Latvia’s current Defence Minister Raimonds Vejonis distances himself from the matter, referencing his previous decision not to dwell on such statements. In spite of this, he continues to receive angry comments from society. According to the people, such a position of a minister sounds more like ‘I don’t care’ or ‘leave me alone’.