Clinton lauds Latvian democracy during visit with foreign minister

Clinton and Kristovskis

Latvian Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shake hands during a Feb. 22 press conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Pēteris Bičevskis, courtesy of the Embassy of Latvia)

The sky is the limit for Latvia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Feb. 22 after a meeting with Latvian Foreign Minister Ģirts Valdis Kristovksis.

The foreign minister met with Clinton as part of a four-day visit to Washington, D.C. During the meeting the two discussed matters of economic development and global security. Among issues addressed were Latvia’s membership in the NATO defense alliance and its continuing mission in Afghanistan, diversifying Latvia’s energy sources and the country’s support for democracy in neighboring Belarus.

Clinton, speaking during a press conference that was overshadowed by events in Libya and Bahrain, said Latvia is “a democracy that is demonstrating by its actions how it can build a better future for its own people.”

“The United States has maintained an unbroken friendship with Latvia throughout its modern history, when it was at war and under occupation and since it acquired its independence from the Soviet Union, and we have long admired the Latvian people’s resilience throughout very difficult times,” Clinton said, according to a transcript of the press conference distributed by the State Department.

She applauded Latvia’s involvement in NATO and said the U.S. remains committed to the security of Europe. Clinton also noted Latvia’s efforts to deal with its economic crisis.

“As we work together for global security, we especially commend the Latvian people for their achievements over the past 20 years as they continue their work toward their own better future,” Clinton said. “Gaining membership in NATO and the European Union took patience and persistence, and when those memberships came they were richly deserved. And after suffering devastating job losses during this last global recession, they have been undertaking stringent cost-cutting measures necessary to begin a sustainable recovery.”

While the meeting with Clinton may not have come with any firm commitments regarding the Latvian economy, Kristovskis told a reporter that he is convinced the U.S. will maintain interest in investing in the country. Latvia wants to learn about America’s experience with producing natural gas from shale deposits, the foreign minister said.

Kristovskis also said he expects that in the future more Latvian entrepreneurs will participate in the Northern Distribution Network, a U.S.-backed project to transport supplies to Afghanistan. One of the main ports involved in the plan is Rīga.

Clinton also noted that the U.S. looks forward to Latvia broadening its commitment to the rule of law by renewing a claims process to return communal property to the Jewish community. According to the Israel-based World Jewish Restitution Organization, in Latvia “well over 200 pre-war communal properties, other than cemeteries, have been identified as belonging to the Jewish community prior to World War II.”

“I believe that the sky is the limit for Latvia,” Clinton added. “We have a shared commitment to values, a view of what is in the best interest of our people.”

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

10 thoughts on “Clinton lauds Latvian democracy during visit with foreign minister

  1. It is laudable that Latvian Foreign Minister G. V. Kristovskis was able to meet with U.S. Secretary of State H. R. Clinton. The meeting was another step in the right direction for Latvia. Mrs. Clinton’s and Mr. Kristovskis’s diplomatic statements, after their closed-door meeting were appropriate to the occasion, but short on substantive detail. In light of U.S. President Obama’s meeting, June 24, 2010, with Russian President Medvedev, in the oval office of the White House, after which Mr. Obama once again emphasized his desire to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia, one wonders if Foreign Minister Kristovskis discussed with Sec. Clinton Russia’s/Mr. Putin’s attempts to interfere with the internal politics, culture, language and economy of Latvia via the de facto Russian government in Latvia represented by Harmony Centre/Saskanas Centrs (SC). It is no small matter to Latvia and its future, that the second largest party in the current Latvian Parliament is composed of primarily pro-Kremlin ethnic-Russians, and that Latvia’s capital city of Riga is run by a corrupt pro-Putin ethnic Russian, Nils Usakovs, and his comrades. Did Mr. Kristovskis inform Mrs. Clinton of the fact that a not so subtle reoccupation of Latvia by ethnic-Russians is currently taking place, and that the Latvian language is in danger of becoming secondary to the Russian language in Latvia, if not already? In fact, the Latvian language is in danger of becoming extinct, if the current language trends in Latvia are allowed to continue-spoken Russian again dominates much of Latvia. Is the Latvian government solely concerned with the economy and a financial relationship with the U.S. and other countries in the West, or is the current government also concerned with preserving the language and unique culture of Latvia, as it was prior to Latvia’s illegal occupation by Stalin and the Soviet Russians 70 years ago? That horrific occupation resulted in the virtually absolute RUSSIFICATION OF LATVIA, an abhorrent act of RACISM by the Russians against the Latvians, by any definition of the word racism. Now the ethnic-Russians living in Latvia are behaving in a racist manner against the Latvians and the Latvian language, by refusing to learn and/or speak Latvian, and simply by speaking Russian in a country where the official state language is Latvian. What did Sec. Clinton have to say about that, considering her expressed concern for the human rights of all peoples?

  2. This question of returning commercial property to the Jewish community,I and others like me find to be absolutly absured, nothing more then a joke. Lets see. All Jewish property was taken away and confiscated by the Germans. Therefore all property that belonged to Jews, they had lost under the power of Hitlers regime. Does that mean that Latvias government is responsible for Jewish property that was stolen from them? If I’m not mistaken between 1940-41, before Opperation Barbarosa when into effect there was another regime that had Latvia and the other Baltic States under it’s wing and that would be Communist Russia under the power of Joseph Stalin. As much as I know about communism no one ownes any property, it all belongs to the government. Plus there was no Latvian government which was in power before Stalins take over. In fact the original government members including Karls Ulmans, Latvias president, were either executed or sent to siberia. Unless Jews owned property in Latvia during Stalins takeover? But we do have to remember the LAWS of the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO. Another little thought that came into my mind. Approximetly 37,000 people were deported from the Baltic States to siberia, the majoity of them deported on June 14,1941, eight days before the German onslaught. Out of Latvia 15,000 were deported to siberia. As we already know, not just pure Lavian blooded people were sent to these camps but so were Germans, Russians, Poles, Gypsies and Jews. Wouldn’t it be logical that the Jewish Restitution Orginization demand payback from Moscow since Stalin took all property from the citizens of Latvia and 2nd that he already had signed an agreement with Hitler deciding the fate of all three Baltic States, known as the Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939? Isn’t it logical that the one reponsible for all this stolen property would be Moscow rather then Latvias government? But why would Moscow want to do that? Remember, Communism? Equality for all.

  3. Inga,you are so right in the post. I will just add that the trimda,oh excuse me,diaspora Latvians are assimilating in the west,and the Russians are smothering the ones in our own land. What does our future hold I wonder?

  4. Those of you who have read my editorial may have found an error in it. The part were I by accident had typed in ‘plus there was no Latvian government which was in power before Stalins take over.’ What I meant to type was that ‘the original government was not in power after Stalins takeover.’

  5. Well, even though today’s Latvia has nothing to do with the crimes committed by the Nazis and Stalin’s regimes between the years of 1940 and 1945, there is no doubt the country should be still responsible for restoring the historic rights of all citizens, whose communities were abused during the war. This is the bottom line, for a country which considers itself democracy. I would even go further and state that those particular rights of Jewish community should be honoured by Latvia on the basis of state continuity. Latvia has affirmed legal continuity with Latvian original citizenship laws and thus has the obligation towards her dismantled Jewish community as it has towards Latvians in exile. And it’s not like they all came to Latvia during the Soviet occupation. They were all citizens of Latvia with their own historical community living in Latvia for a few hundreds of years, meaning they were authentic to Latvia no less than any other ethnicity from the Baltic Sea region.

  6. to:KF All, I repeat ALL people, Latvian Gentiles, Latvian Jews, Russians, Germans, you-name-it, who had owned property in Latvia (or their descendents) were given the right to reclaim it after Latvia became independent. But – there was a deadline by which the request had to be made and by which supporting documents had to be submitted. Latvia cannot make exceptions for one ethnic group. Period.

  7. I can understand were the Latvian government would be reponsible by trying to help those people who want to confiscate their land back which they lost during WW2. Especially if the land or property was not inhabited by or used by anyone. In no way can I see the Latvian government providing financial payback for the property lost during the war. The government might as well payback all Latvian citizens of the whole world for property lost under both Stalin and Hitler (Gypsies,Latvians,Russians, Poles,Germans and Jews). The government responsible for financial payback for the damage it had placed on other nationalities let alone on it’s own people is Moscow under the command of Stalin and his hangmen.

  8. To KF, All property claims had to be submitted by 1994. Just like in the US and the rest of the world, unclaimed property is appropriated by the state. Mrs Clinton asks that the Republic of Latvia create laws not demanded from other democratic nations. In pre WWII Latvia there were no separate ethnic communities i.e Ghettos. The Riga Ghetto was a creation of the nazis and populated in many cases by Jews imported from other countries with the intent to murder them in Latvia. Would be president, candidate Clinton, needs to get her information correct if she hopes to win the Eastern European vote. Additionally her inferences are calumnous.

  9. Dear sk, I understood. However, if we start using this logic of “deadlines”, some of us would definitely have to stop complaining about missing the deadlines to acquire a Latvian citizenship before 1995. There was a deadline too. Was it a fair? I don’t think so.

  10. Our family on my mother’s side came from Jelgava, which was, as we know, heavily bombed during the war and documents to retrieve homes, i.e. in Ikskile, were lost to our family, never mind deadlines. That said, coming from the state of NY, my residence now for decades, I’m doubly disappointed in Mrs. Clinton that she should just blithely sing the politic line of supporting the WJRO claims, without taking into account the complexity and tragedy of what happened to the Balts, and the Jewish race, esp. Riga, during WWII. For example, why not hit up the UK for the millions that it was, supposedly, keeping for safe return to Latvia, but in the 1970’s, gave instead to USSR for some made up reparations of the war. Furthermore, no use denying it, the bloodshed of so many Jewish people, imported for slaughter in Riga, can not be brushed away by putting blame on the Nazis on the one side and Stalin on the other. While Mrs. Kennedy, while the WJRO, while so much negative PR about what happened at that time on LAtvian soil, especially, until the reason becomes clear just why these JEwish people were brought to our homeland to be destroyed, how can any of us not suffer negative consequences…until, somehow, the truth is recognized. And in that, i think it takes all of us of Latvian nationality to stop bickering and alienating one another, whether we are LAtvians who were oppressed, or whether, like myself, you were a trimdiniece, who was a child, for God’s sake, following her family, who would have suffered a dire fate had they remained in LAtvia. While we lack harmony between one another, while we in LAtvia freely show hostility to minority groups, such as the JEws, I don’t see much of an improvement. Though I’ve been returning to LAtvia, regularly, since 1997, of three families, only one still accepts me, the others preferring to discount a woman head of the household, or any other such excuse. Latvians really do need to do something about our tendency to scatter our energies and remain the fierce individualists. Time also not to forsake the nuclear family, but open up to extended relations and to each other. Back to the original theme, we can make a difference in our part of the world, not by being silent, but by standing up and being counted as LAtvians. That means to me, tell your trimdinieces story, to as few or as many that will listen.

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