The Baltic Times
TBT Staff, RIGA
July 17, 2008
A recent report from Latvia”s National Security Council has named Russia as one of the leading threats to Latvian security — a move that highlights renewed tensions between the two countries.
Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis used the report to brief Saeima , Latvia”s parliament, on the security situation in the country. The report listed terrorism, drug trafficking, Russia and illegal immigration as the top threats facing the country.
Russia reportedly earned its place on the list because it “uses energy instruments as a means of influence.” Latvia is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy supplies.
“One of the top risks identified is the possible energy dependence on Russia. This energy dependence could theoretically be used as a foreign policy instrument,” a representative of the Information Analysis Center told The Baltic Times.
“Latvian regional security is evaluated in the context of the Russian development scenario,” the spokesman said.
On the same day that the Security Council report was released, Chas, a local Russianlanguage publication, ran a long feature about the deteriorating relationship between the two countries.
“We should not have any illusions about it: the issues concerning Russia are taking a long time to resolve and the [intergovernmental] committee is not likely to be very successful,” the paper quoted former Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks as saying.
Chas highlighted a recent announcement from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov that by 2015, the country will stop using Baltic ports to ship goods to Europe.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin previously announced that the country would instead focus on building up its own port infrastructure.
“Over the past 20 years, the successful development of the Latvian-Russian dialogue has been impeded by a lack of trust. Russia obviously does not trust us even now, considering Ivanov”s announcements. So why should we trust Russia?” Pabriks reportedly said.
The July 10 report made Latvia the second European Union nation within a week to declare Russia a security threat. On July 4, The Times, a U.K.-based publication, declared Russia the third most pressing threat to the country following al-Qaeda and Iran.
A WIDER STRATEGY
The Security Council report came on the heels of the unveiling of a new national security strategy.
The document, which was endorsed by the government on June 30, notes that while Latvia”s security environment is generally improving there are a number of new threats that the country must cope with.
The new strategy says that the decreasing level of trust between Russia and the West has had a negative effect on regional security. It highlights Russia”s unilateral decision to withdraw from the treaty on conventional armed forces in Europe.
The report also ostensibly referred to the expulsion of a member of the Russian Embassy for alleged espionage activities earlier this year.
“Activities of foreign intelligence services in Latvia”s territory are also a significant factor threatening national security,” the document says.
Based on the priorities identified in the strategy, the government is currently drafting a national security plan that will include goals for next year aimed at improving the security environment.
Despite recent bumps, the overall relationship between Russia and Latvia has been gradually improving since the signing of the border treaty at the end of last year.