Latvia’s president says the West must arm Ukraine to prevent Russia from future global adventures

“It is important to actually fight for international peace, peace in Europe, because if we stop Russia in Ukraine, Russia will not be able to challenge other countries,” Edgars Rinkevich said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He pointed to the subversive role played by the Russian Wagner mercenary group in Africa and to Russian meetings with officials from Hamas, the armed movement ruling the Gaza Strip whose surprise attack in Israel on October 7 killed about 1,200 people.

In July, Rinkevich was sworn in as president of Latvia, which was part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in August 1991. The Baltic state, with a population of 1.9 million, in 2004 joined both the European Union and NATO, and has stuck to a key point. On its eastern side with its border with Russia, which is 214 kilometers (133 miles) long.

Rinkevic, who was Latvia’s foreign minister for 13 years before being elected president, said that although some members of the 27-nation EU had their “opinions”, the alliance ultimately agreed to impose sanctions on Russia and to provide more support. To Ukraine due to the Russian invasion in February 2022.

“It is interesting that the European Union at this point is more divided when it comes to the Middle East, rather than Ukraine,” he said in the interview conducted on Thursday.

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He said it was important for the West to support both Ukraine and Israel against attacks on “our values” and the international order. He also stressed the need to push for a halt to the humanitarian fighting in Gaza to provide assistance to Palestinian civilians, whose death toll in Israel’s response to the Hamas attack has exceeded 11,000, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Rinkevich said that Iran is “very pleased to see this kind of development in the Middle East,” and noted that Tehran is supplying Russia with weapons and other equipment for its fight in Ukraine.

He said it was in NATO’s security interest “for both cases to be viewed in the same way.” “I also believe that it will be easier for us to maintain peace in Europe if Ukraine succeeds than if we let Ukraine down, or so,” he added. “It is also important to allow the situation in the Middle East to get out of control.”

Rinkevich said Ukrainian soldiers were fighting “in a very brave way” and that the West had a responsibility to respond to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s call for more weapons, “because we have not given as much as we should have.”

He said that Russia was mobilizing its economy, resources and military mechanisms “for a very long war.” It tried to win the war quickly and realized it couldn’t, and now Moscow wants to “choke” Ukraine, he said, predicting that it will relaunch attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the coming months, as it did last winter.

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Rinkevich said the European Union and NATO needed to prepare for a long war in Ukraine.

He added: “The European Union has realized that we need more defense and army.” “And at this point, I would like to see this process being a little bit faster. But still, these things are finally moving now.”

But he said many European NATO members still needed to reach the target of spending 2% of GDP on defence, adding that Latvia expected to spend 2.4% of GDP on defense next year and 3% in 2027. Defense industrial production in Europe to increase he added.

Many experts and officials said that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hope is to withstand Western support for Ukraine in a long war.

“I think it’s very important that he fails,” Rinkiewicz said.

He said that if the world sees that Europe and the United States are failing to provide support to Ukraine, “I think this will increase the pressure on Israel.”

He added: “I also think that Iran will be more assertive.” “Let us also not forget the entire Asian region, and let us not forget Taiwan.”

The Latvian leader said that Russia is turning from an authoritarian regime to a totalitarian regime and is resorting to propaganda worse than the Cold War.

He added that they show “brutal images, videos or animated videos about destroying cities in Europe or the United States using nuclear weapons, saying that the use of nuclear weapons is actually just a piece of cake.”

He added that they describe Ukrainians as “a kind of inferior human race – very similar to what Nazi Germany used to say about the Jews.”

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If people can accept a gay head of state, “I think they will become more inclusive and more open to the whole society very quickly as well,” Rinkevich said. “That’s also the message I hope will be received everywhere else.”

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