Latvian foreign minister says EU leaders should not fear provoking Putin and should not push Ukraine into concessions

In an exclusive interview with CNN in Washington, DC, Rinkēvičs also outlined Latvia’s main goals for NATO’s approach to the eastern flank – namely, a long-term military presence – and expressed concern by the growing food crisis caused by the Russian blockade of Ukraine. harbors.

Rinkēvičs’ visit to DC came as US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said “Ukraine faces a pivotal moment on the battlefield” and the Biden administration unveiled a new tranche of military assistance to Ukraine – a decision to strengthen Kyiv as the war draws to a close. of its fourth month. Latvia’s foreign minister will meet lawmakers and Biden administration officials in the nation’s capital ahead of the NATO summit in Madrid later this month.

Although Rinkēvičs did not name names in his criticism of European leaders who he says harbor a “fear” of upsetting Putin, he told CNN he was referring to “those who are well known from time to time. time saying openly that they don’t want to see him humiliated or that we have to provide an exit ramp” – an apparent blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, who said in early June “we must not humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can construct an exit ramp through diplomatic means.”

Rinkēvičs said such an approach was “not rational”, telling CNN that “the mentality in many capitals needs to be changed”. He also noted that world leaders’ diplomatic contacts with Putin to try to get him to end the war had yielded no results, and said he believed the Russians “can only be stopped by the Ukrainians, only by them who are fighting”.

Russia's War in Ukraine

The foreign minister said the war in Ukraine was more important than the Russian leader, noting that they couldn’t commit the war “without the support of the people … without this kind of brainwashing of the people through the channels of propaganda”.

He praised the United States for its military support for Ukraine and said European allies should increase their wartime industrial production, noting that “we’ve had these great 20 plus years of military downsizing, by getting rid of all that, then now suddenly we need for our own defense, we have to arm Ukraine.”

Additionally, Rinkēvičs told CNN that “no one should push Ukraine into making concessions to Russia” – concessions like ceding territory to Moscow in order to stop the war. While that might work for a while, the foreign minister expressed doubts that it would be a permanent deterrent against future Russian aggression.

“Let’s not make this mistake again. Russia is not waging this war against NATO expansion or keeping Ukraine out of NATO or the EU. It’s about destroying Ukraine, to get land, to restore the empire,” he said.

In order to prevent future military aggression from Moscow, Rinkēvičs said that “Russia must be in a situation where its war and economic machine is in such a state that it cannot launch any offensive military operations”, and although he doesn’t see an end to sanctions in the current war, they could help deter a future one.

Send a “clear message to Russia”

As NATO leaders prepare to meet in the Spanish capital later this month, Rinkēvičs said Latvia, which borders both Russia and Belarus, is considering very specific measures that should be taken to strengthen security in the Baltic countries, the main of which is a long-term presence of NATO troops.

The Foreign Secretary told CNN it was crucial to send “a clear message to Russia” that this is NATO territory and that “not an inch” will be given up, acknowledging that Madrid would only be the beginning of the process of discussion and decision.

“What we want to avoid is the situation where parts of the Baltic are suddenly occupied, then liberated by NATO troops, and then we get new Buchas or Mariupols,” Rinkēvičs said, referring to the names regions of Ukraine. atrocities were committed.

“So what we’re talking about (of) internally is a change in the type of deterrence and defence, kind of (by) punishment to defense and deterrence through denial, refusal to go into the Baltic countries,” he said.

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Post expires at 2:16am on Sunday June 26th, 2022