If the Saeima of the Republic of Latvia wants to prove that it truly understands the latest developments in Ukraine and wants to prevent the occurrence of similar events in Latvia, the Statement on Russia’s Aggression in Ukraine adopted by the Saeima on 6 March should not remain merely declarative.
Therefore, after adopting the Statement, both the Saeima and the government need to take extraordinary measures on a national level to prevent potential threats to Latvia’s national security. It is well-known that international law and practice allow countries to take extraordinary measures, where national security is under threat.
During an extraordinary meeting held on 3 March, the parliamentary group and Board of the National Alliance adopted a decision to urge the government of Latvia and the Saeima to take determined measures and consider this matter at the cooperation council of coalition parties. The proposals are as follows:
1. To limit pro-Kremlin war propaganda in the Latvian media;
2. To suspend issuance of residence permits to citizens of the Russian Federation;
3. To boost the defence capacity of the Latvian National Guard and to increase its involvement in strengthening domestic security;
4. To take all possible measures to ensure permanent presence of NATO forces in the territory of Latvia;
5. To ensure maximum transparency of foreign financing to NGOs and, if necessary, to set limitations.
Additional information on each proposal
1. Ways to limit pro-Kremlin war propaganda in the Latvian media can be sought also outside the media space, namely, among national security tools. To enable early detection of anti-democratic military aggression propaganda, it is necessary to ensure regular media monitoring. The National Alliance urges the National Security Council and the National Security Committee of the Saeima to seek possible solutions. Not only the Ministry of Defence but also the National Security Council and the National Security Committee need to explain to the Saeima and to the public the essence and objectives of the war propaganda. Monitoring and evaluation of the Internet environment and other types of mass media should be conducted centrally.
If the Saeima condemns the aggression in Ukraine, it should also strive to curb the pro-Kremlin aggression against Ukraine in the media. Aggression in the media should be analysed on a regular basis. Latvia has to act quickly instead of having a provincially backward response to the war propaganda broadcast in the media. It is clear that Latvia needs a media policy.
2. The Saeima has held a lot of debates about the necessity to suspend issuance of residence permits to citizens of the Russian Federation. Backing off from the proposal of the National Alliance on this matter would mean facilitating a repeat of the current Ukrainian scenario in Latvia.
3. After the events in Ukraine, there can be no more discussions about whether to increase military spending. This, of course, must be done immediately and to the sufficient extent. At the moment, the share of spending for defence might be increased up to 1% of GDP with an upward trend.
It is necessary to boost the defence capacity of the Latvian National Guard and to increase its involvement in strengthening domestic security. Its functions should be clearly defined. The state should provide an opportunity for its people to volunteer as reservists in order to develop their civil-defence and military skills, for example, by offering every year a two-week long state-funded voluntary training supported by employers.
The National Security Council should have a plan for protecting the state from subversion similar to what is going on in Ukraine or to what happened in Georgia.
4. The Latvian government needs to take all necessary measures to ensure permanent presence of NATO forces in the territory of Latvia.
It is known that, upon the request of the Baltic States, the U.S. will provide the presence of another six fighter jets for air policing in the Baltic States. That was one of the points on which the National Alliance insisted during the Cooperation council of coalition parties on 3 March, when speaking about the permanent presence of NATO forces in Latvia. It is hard to understand why the coalition partners rejected this proposal of the National Alliance if the Minister for Defence later on supported it with his actions.
5. It is necessary to ensure maximum transparency of foreign financing to NGOs and, if necessary, to set limitations. State-funded NGOs cannot be real NGOs. Such organisations are called GONGO (government-organised non-governmental organisation). In Latvia these are NGOs established by the government of another country, namely, pro-Kremlin associations, that become active in this country whenever issues such as the Latvian official language, citizenship or state continuity etc. are being addressed. It is necessary to regularly monitor the financing of those NGOs what are in attention of the state, to publish pertinent reports and take steps to reduce the Kremlin’s impact in Latvia, so that Latvia’s sovereignty and democratic foundations are not undermined by those hiding behind the lofty name of NGOs.
I hope that events in Ukraine have been an eye-opener for everybody. It is high time for the Saeima and the Latvian government to act in order to prevent Ukraine’s current reality from becoming Latvia’s.