Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 176

Igor Ivanov’s appointment as Russian foreign minister is being marked by a recrudescence of the anti-Baltic campaign launched by his predecessor, Yevgeny Primakov. The new minister gave the signal on September 22 and 23, in his maiden address to the UN General Assembly and a follow-up statement there. He warned that Russia will use “diplomatic pressure on Estonia and Latvia” in order to end alleged violations of the rights of “the Russian-speaking population” (the term is Moscow’s political construct, not recognized by any country, international statute or organization). Ivanov termed the use of diplomatic pressure “a difficult but just method” to remedy the alleged violations. He also indicated that Moscow would redouble efforts to use the UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and other organizations as tribunes against the Baltic states (Itar-Tass, BNS, September 23-24).

In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry statement yesterday lashed out at Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis, whose address to the UN General Assembly had briefly mentioned the need for an international analysis of the consequences of the Soviet occupation of European countries. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement described this suggestion as “speculations with history, aimed against the Russian state and people.” It warned that such ideas impede “normalization” of Russian-Latvian relations and “can only lead to inter-ethnic tensions within Latvia” (Russian agencies, October 24). The latter remark can be read as a reminder that Moscow is in a position to play the ethnic card in the Baltic states. The statement ignored Ulmanis’ remarks on Latvia’s efforts to achieve an inclusive society across ethnic lines (Russian agencies, September 24).

In an interview published in Riga yesterday, Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Udaltsov warned that Russia will not sign the border agreement with Latvia so long as the country does not comprehensively change its legislation on citizenship, language, education and labor in favor of the “Russian-speaking population” (Lauku Avize cited by BNS, September 24). Moscow takes a similar position with regard to Estonia. Both border treaties were completed after Estonia and Latvia had made all the concessions demanded of them. Moscow, however, holds up the signing in the hope of impeding the two countries’ progress toward the European Union. Russia has signed the border treaty with Lithuania, whose ethnic composition precludes these types of pressures.