The CIS and Baltic Press on Russia

April 6, 2007


The media has been concerned that the signing of the Russian-Latvian border treaty may increase pressure on Estonia both from the European Union and Russia. “Now, Estonia remains the only Baltic nation not to have a border treaty with Russia. Who is to blame for this? Is it only Moscow that keeps talking about Estonia having joined the Soviet Union voluntarily, and ignoring the Tartu peace treaty? But the Latvians were even under stronger pressure from Moscow. Yet they have signed the treaty and feel quite comfortable… Riga has clearly realized, as Helsinki did at one time, that it is not possible to build relations with Russia exclusively through Brussels. It is hard to predict when Tallinn understands this as well.” (Postimees, March 28). “The EU hopes that the Latvian-Russian breakthrough will show the way for Estonia,” said spokeswoman for the European Commission Emma Udwin… A European official who preferred to remain anonymous said that the message for Tallinn is short – ‘Do it.’ Brussels does not care about the terms.” (Eesti Paevaleht, March 28). “Pressure on Estonia will be mounting, although it won’t be direct…In the 1990s, Russia continuously criticized Latvia for alleged violations of minority rights and exoneration of Nazism whereas now it is silent on Latvia’s score, and has even offered a reward – better terms of transit. Russian criticism is now spearheaded against Estonia… Russia not only wants to discredit Tallinn but also to set it at loggerheads with Riga.” (Eesti Paevaleht, March 28).


Most commentators believe that Russia and Latvia have concluded a mutually beneficial deal by signing the border treaty, even though it will not solve all bilateral problems. Having given up its territorial claims, Riga will be able to develop mutually advantageous economic cooperation with Russia. “By signing the treaty, the government has flung its doors open for Russia’s investment. Without an official document and Putin’s blessing, few Russian investors dared deal with Latvia. Meanwhile, Russia is bursting with petrodollars – so, why not invest them in a friendly EU country?” (Telegraf, March 28).The “dead donkey’s ears” that Putin had famously promised to Latvia instead of Pytalovo (a territory claimed by Latvia) is going to turn into something after all – a gas depot in Dobele and resumption of oil transit through Ventspils… The Latvian delegation’s major victory in Moscow was a gas breakthrough rather than a border treaty. Gas supplies, tariffs, and, most importantly, Latvia’s participation in the Nord Stream were discussed at top level, and, obviously with very good results.” (Telegraf, March 29).


The media writes that by signing a border treaty with Russia, Latvia has “betrayed” the Baltic interests. “Russia continues its carrot-and-stick policy towards the Baltic nations. Now that Latvia has signed this dubious border treaty with Russia, Riga will, most probably, receive a reward… Yesterday, President Putin mentioned that the Latvians can now expect Moscow’s gratitude.” (Lietuvos Rytas, March 29). “Why does Russia need Latvia? It is not difficult to guess, considering that Lithuania and Poland want to become self-sufficient in energy and are persuading other Baltic nations to do the same. Therefore, Latvia is very likely to be showered with Russian presents, and not because of its pragmatic approach to the border treaty. It seems that Latvia has been offered an all-embracing mega deal, whereas the border treaty is merely a cover-up for the real reasons behind the thaw in bilateral relations.” (Lietuvos Rytas, March 31).