Latvia not against Belarus-NATO agreement – defense minister

The relations between Latvia and Belarus is a good example of how the relationship of Latvia and Russia might be developing, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said when granting an interview to Belsat TV host Syarhei Pelyasa in the NATO HQ in Brussels.

S.P.: What are the most urgent problems and security threats that Latvia is facing nowadays?

A.P.: I think that the threats many countries of the world are facing are very similar. These are civilian issues, such as forest fires, industrial problems, viruses, diseases. When it comes to military issues, of course, after Russia’s wars against Georgia and Ukraine, our vision of the relations with Russia slightly deteriorated, there is no longer such trust [as it used to be]. If we have a common border, we want more security for themselves, since we are a small state. Our country was occupied in 1940 [by the USSR], we know what it means. We do not want to imperil ourselves anymore.

How would you assess the cooperation with Belarus in the field of security? Belarus is an ally of Russia, but it takes a different position on many global issues. Is Belarus a nonthreatening neighbour?

We realise that Belarus’ situation is challenging, because it has been an ally of Russia historically . On the other hand, Belarus is a very good neighbour of Latvia. We do not have any problems with the reliability of Belarus. In our opinion, there is a very good contact between us. If there is a problem, we can phone each other, i.e. there is trust between the politicians of the both countries. We also witnessed crises, for instance, when fires broke out somewhere, and other cases, and we can help each other. I think that the relations between Latvia and Belarus is a good example of what the relationship of Latvia and Russia could have evolved into.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is expected to make a visit to Riga this year, and all of us are on the look-out for it. Do you think it is high time Belarus mended fences with NATO taken as a whole? Perhaps, Belarus should consider a possibility of signing the agreement on secure exchange of information with the alliance?

In the existing environment, Latvia would not be a foe to such agreement. We believe that the relationship between NATO and Belarus, between the EU and Belarus should be strengthened too, because we are neighbours. We have always presumed that that we could improve the relations with our neighbours.

The interview was part of Belsat TV news show World and Us (Prasviet). The episode was aired on February 21, 2020.