United States tells Russia to talk with Baltic states in “civilized” way

WASHINGTON, June 15, 2007 (LETA–AFP) – The United States (U.S.) told Russia Thursday not to threaten the former Soviet Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with attacks and sanctions but to discuss differences in a “civilized” way.

“There are deep and difficult issues in Russia’s relations with the Baltic states and some of them are rooted in different views of history,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Daniel Fried, said.

“But these differences should be discussed in a honest and civilized way. Threats, attacks, sanctions should have no place,” he said at a Washington forum marking the 85th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the United States and the Baltic nations.

All three Baltic foreign ministers were present at the forum as well.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of launching a wave of attacks against its computer systems as part of a campaign of unofficial sanctions.

Although Russia denies it slapped sanctions after an April row over a Soviet war memorial, trade between the two neighbors fell sharply and the small Baltic state felt the pinch.

Moscow has generally been unhappy with its democratic neighbors Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after they joined NATO in 2004.

“Their [Baltic] democratic ideals and their democratic success is not a threat to anyone least of all their great neighbor Russia,” said Fried, who is in charge of European and Eurasian affairs in the State Department.

“The Russians sometimes say that we are trying to surround them, encircle them but is it not in the best interest of Russia to be surrounded by peaceful, prospering democracies,” Condoleezza Rice’s assistant asked rhetorically.

“Doesn’t Russian history suggest that threats from the West do not come from democracies but dictatorships and nationalistic dictatorships?,” Fried said.

Relations between Russia and the United States are at a post Cold-War low due to differences largely in the political and security arenas.

Moscow remains deeply skeptical about the current U.S. plan to place interceptor missiles in Poland and elements of a linked radar system in the Czech Republic, both NATO members.

Russia also has a string of disagreements with the European Union. Fried urged Russia not to remain suspicious of the European Union.

“The European Union is many things but a threatening, rapidly nationalistic superstate it is not,” he said.

“And although I admire the progress of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian militaries, I do not think we shall soon see the Lithuanian cavalry galloping through Smolensk heading east,” he said ironically, referring to the once Lithuanian-held western Russian city.