Rinkevics: Defense-sector sanctions ‘don’t go far enough’

Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, while otherwise downplaying the effects of third-level sanctions imposed by the world’s economic powers Wednesday, told LTV news program Rīta Panorāma that “in the defense sector they are insufficient.” Meanwhile, Economics Minister Vjaceslavs Dombrovskis shared the worst-case scenario on the same broadcast, saying sanctions could theoretically reduce Latvia’s GDP by 10%, which are “pretty serious consequences.”

Without referring directly to the pending October delivery by France to Russia of the first of two of its freshly-built Mistral warships, Rinkevics said “it is unacceptable that the embargo on the military arms trade doesn’t apply to already signed contracts, clearly in this regard the sanctions do not go far enough.”

Commenting upon the expected negative effects from the sanctions now targeting Russia’s finance, technology and defense sector trade ties with the developed nations, Rinkevics said there would be “no direct effect on Latvia.” While he predicted plenty of political campaigning and psychological propaganda among nay-sayers, Rinkevics claimed that talk of the impact upon Latvia’s economy is exaggerated.

It is unacceptable that the embargo on the military arms trade doesn’t apply to already signed contracts"

Referring to panic among local fruit and vegetable growers that Poland’s harvests will flood Latvian markets following announcement of a Russian ban on their imports Wednesday, Rinkevics downplayed the link to sanctions and called on the public not to “overdramatize” the situation.

While he said nothing could be ruled out in awaiting Russia’s possible reactions, Rinkevics noted that public perceptions that Europe will suffer more than its target is purely owing to “Russian bravado.”

 “It’s all through state controlled channels, and the worries we know they have are simply not being expressed. We know how it works in an authoritarian system, one truth is presented, discussion is ruled out, there’s a great bluster which affects people’s state of mind. In democratic countries there is a broad level of discussion, we can fully and openly discuss the effects of this or the other sanction, any organization or enterprise has the right to express their doubts and therefore the impression arises that Europe will suffer more than Russia,” the minister went on.

“If we look at real figures from the  various sectors, we see that Russia is dependent on Europe in many more respects than vice-versa and thus in the mid- and long-term will suffer more from the mutual effects of the sanctions,” he said.

“I think the decision makers behind the walls of the Kremlin understand this quite well, but at the same time they can’t afford to allow the real scenario to appear in open discussion in Russia. That’s why we’re having this information war, this propaganda war, and we see nothing but bombast from the official Russian line.”

Rinkevics also expressed hope that it will be possible to minimize the mutual energy interdependence between various European countries and Russia. He underscored the need for a unified Baltic energy policy for this critical time.

“Since May the Baltics have already outlined the financial flows needed to resolve this, we must deal with the regional liquid gas terminal question, a matter between Finland and Estonia, as well as building the pipeline interconnection between Lithuania and Poland.

“Secondly, this is the moment we must implement the so-called third packet, we’ve been given a few years, this is the time for us to finally understand this geopolitical situation is not just for one or two days, I fear it’s a matter of several years, so it’s a good basis for all three Baltic states to unite and bring order to the issue. Together we can,” the minister concluded.


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