Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Window on Eurasia: 500 Donetsk-Type Militants Could End Latvia’s Existence as Unified State, Moscow Expert Says

Paul Goble


            Staunton, July 15 – Andrey Neronsky, the director of the Moscow Center of Russian Culture in Latvia, says that a Ukrainian scenario is completely possible in that Baltic country and that as few as 500 pro-Russian militants like those in Donetsk and Luhansk could end Latvia’s existence as a unified state.


            In comments to Newsbalt.ru yesterday, Neronsky said that the preconditions for such an outcome were in place.  “Discrimination against the Russian community is intensifying in recent months. The West is closing its eyes to this, the patience of Russians is not unlimited, and the example of Crimea and the Donbas may push them to decisive actions” (newsbalt.ru/detail/?ID=35738).


            “If events analogous to those in Ukraine were to begin in Latvia,” he said, “it is extremely probable that 500 fighters would be enough to end the existence of Latvia as a unified state. Latvia could split into two and possibly more antagonistic enclaves,” with pro-Russian forces dominating the southeast and around Riga.


            According to Neronsky, “there are no forces in Latvia for the suppression of popular uprisings.  Its army is small, weakly armed, and not capable of carrying out a large-scale punitive operation.”  And the small NATO forces in the Baltics are not large enough or likely to become involved.


            The Latvian police, “despite being not badly equipped, do not have the skills” for this either, he continued.  “Moreover, the municipal police may go over to the side” of those rising against Riga just as some Ukrainian police units did in Ukraine. That is especially likely in southeastern Latvia and Riga.


            But the Moscow analyst said that “the main reason for the deterioration of the position of the Russian community [in Latvia] and the intensification of the conflict situation in Latvia is the policy of the United States which is directed at surrounding Russia with loyal regimes so as not to allow Russia to reestablish itself as a world power.”


            To that end, he continued, Washington is relying on “local nationalistic forces,” and consequently, the West sees the Russians of the Baltic region who are on the whole loyal to Russia as a threat to its influence.” The US is prepared to take any step in pursuit of its anti-Russian policies, and therefore “a repetition of the Ukrainian scenario in Latvia is likely.”


            Neronsky’s words, of course, are part of Moscow’s broader campaign against Latvia’s pro-Western orientation and policies. But their specificity – the article even features a map showing which cities and regions might become secessionist – is worrisome because it suggests that some in Moscow are thinking about going beyond words to actions.


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