Mood swings in Russia and the Baltic states
Last month a noted Czech politician was in town bemoaning an Obama foreign policy that he said was “enemy-centric,” geared more to rivals such as Russia than smaller allies such as the Czech Republic.
So it was interesting Wednesday to hear a contrasting view from the leader of an even smaller ally -- Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis of Latvia, a Baltic republic of 2.3 million people that, having been occupied for decades by the Soviet Union, has reasons to pay attention to these things.
Asked about the “enemy-centric” comments of Czech senator Alexandr Vondra, Dombrovskis said there had been similar concerns in the Baltic republics. But, he told me during a visit to The Post, “we really are less concerned now than we were a year ago. There have been quite a few positive developments.”
Those cheery developments have come in two categories: from Russia, and from the West, he said. The Obama administration’s “reset” of relations with Russia “has positive implications also for the Baltic states and Europe in general,” Dombrovskis said. Latvia is seeing a “much more constructive approach” from Russia, including more high-level contacts and progress on a number of bilateral treaties, such as one on double-taxation.
Meanwhile, NATO has upgraded its contingency planning for the Baltic states and conducted exercises there, with U.S. participation. The prime minister stressed that “reset” with Russia can’t come at the expense of U.S. relations with Russia’s neighbors -- and so he said he was pleased to hear, in his Tuesday meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that she plans to visit Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine early next month. Dombrovkis also stressed that the improvement in his nation’s relations with Russia are preliminary. “Whether it lasts for a long period remains to be seen,” he said. “But we see a change of mood in Russia, a change of rhetoric.”
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