Latvia calls for permanent NATO military bases

Events in Russia and Ukraine haven’t yet affected Latvia, but the small Baltic state is already considering alternatives to its natural gas imports from Russia. DW spoke to Latvian finance minister, Andris Vilks.

DW: What impact is the Ukrainian crisis having on Latvia’s financial and political stability?

Andris Vilks: At the moment, we are not feeling a negative impact from the crisis. We understood that it would last for several years, and as a result, we are prepared.

We have seen various surprises from Russia in the previous two decades, so our entrepreneurs are quite prepared to go to other markets, or quit operations in Russia and Ukraine.

How great is the dependence on Russia concerning energy and other goods?

Russia is our largest export market. But, most of the companies that deal with Russia can sell their goods to other countries as well. Russia is not our only market. As a gas importer, it’s a different situation because we are totally dependent on imported natural gas and we are not able to simply select another supply channel. All the Baltic countries are very dependent on Russian gas. At this moment, we are discussing how to vary our supply.

Is your government satisfied with President Obama’s commitment to Latvia concerning military cooperation and also concerning strengthening economic ties?

We immediately received strong and positive signals from the US. US troops are present in the Baltic and all the Baltic states are gradually going to increase military spending. We are going to present our so-called “Integrated Smart Defense Approach.” That is our response and it is extremely important. With regard to the other issues, we have asked for an additional or alternative natural gas supply. We know that the US would play quite a crucial role because Shell Gas exports are quite huge in the US and the US is going to remain a very important exporter. Strong political and economic support from the US and from other NATO countries is crucial for our society.

Full article: Latvia calls for permanent NATO military bases (Deutsche Welle)

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