Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 9

A purported interview with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana has just been published in Riga–fabricated by the spokesman of Latvia’s Way, the main governing party under Prime Minister Vilis Kristopans. According to local press reports, the author, Mikhail Mamilov, had only recently been hired by Latvia’s Way as party spokesman. The forgery has Solana making unfriendly and undiplomatic comments about Latvia and its aspirations to join NATO. NATO called the text–which was published in “Respublika” on January 11, and promptly picked up by a Russian news agency–a “total invention.” Solana’s office has demanded a retraction. The Latvian Foreign Ministry–whose head, Valdis Birkavs, is a member of Latvia’s Way–has condemned the forgery as “gross provocation” (BNS, January 13).

The incident might be seen as an isolated one, possibly stemming from a security lapse–were it not for a recent series of steps which can be seen as reflecting intentions of certain groups within Latvia’s Way to modify the party’s, and perhaps the country’s, orientation. It is common knowledge in local political circles that some of the party’s leaders are politically close to business lobbies which depend on the Russian trade. Thus far, the party leadership has managed to preserve the appearance of unity despite the probable internal differences.

Following last October’s elections, Kristopans, in a Russian press interview, cited Finland as a desirable model for Latvia’s relations with Russia. A group of party leaders then thwarted the formation of a stable majority government of the three parties–including Latvia’s Way–which had won the elections largely because of their call for pro-Western and free-market programs. Instead, that group of leaders shortchanged the electorate by forming a minority government dependent on small left-of-center parties for its survival. As the senior party in the governing coalition, Latvia’s Way has compressed the defense budget to a level incompatible with NATO membership. The Finland model would be just as incompatible, were it to be emulated.