On an official visit to Sweden, Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga assessed Russia’s military operations in Chechnya as evidence that Russia still possesses powerful and effective armed forces. “One must conclude, therefore, that the Russian military maintains a level of combat readiness which also creates a potential threat to Latvia.” The president described the situation as “worrisome, though Russia is concentrating its activities there and luckily not in some other place.” In this light, Vike-Freiberga underscored Latvia’s need to “join NATO as soon as possible” (Vilnius Radio, December 1).
The Latvian president’s remarks dovetail with Lithuanian Parliament Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis’ comment last week that Russia might “tackle” other places, such as Georgia or a Baltic state, after finishing the military operation in Chechnya (see the Monitor, December 1).
The Baltic leaders and parliaments have boldly criticized Russia’s conduct in Chechnya mainly on moral grounds; indeed the Balts have in this context upheld Western principles and OSCE norms more consistently than many Western governments or the OSCE. But the Landsbergis and Vike-Freiberga comments introduce a new dimension to the official stand. They bring out into the open the concern that Russia might single out and target countries outside its borders during the post-Chechnya phase.
Concerned Baltic leaders are also attempting to reach Russian public opinion with appeals to reason and restraint. In an interview made public in Moscow yesterday, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus extrapolated from historical experience and cautioned that wars and invasions “generate hatreds which are handed down from generation to generation on both the losing and the winning sides” and thus lead to continuing cycles of conflict. He said that Lithuania is determined to exercise its right of joining NATO as a defensive measure which in no way threatens Russia. Adamkus had expected to become this week the first Baltic president to pay an official visit to Russia, but President Boris Yeltsin’s medical condition and the overall political situation in Moscow have combined to postpone that and other visits (Itar-Tass, December 2; Kommersant daily, December 3).
MOLDOVA LAYS DOWN THE RED CARPET FOR THE COMMUNIST PARTY.