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Having Canadian troops in Latvia is valuable: Ambassador

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Re: “The Russians aren’t coming,” (The Hill Times, Dec. 14, p. 9). At a time when the entire world has become acutely aware of how the once-proud Syrian city of Aleppo has been reduced to rubble, and we must listen to reports of noncombatants including women and children being massacred and abandoned in the wake of an air campaign primarily directed from Moscow, you publish an article called the “Russians aren’t coming.”

Allowing for differences of opinion is a valuable achievement of democracies like Canada or Latvia, but opinions voiced publicly and placed in serious newspapers should be based on facts, or at least on some apparent reality. The author of the article is not well informed at least when it comes to my country, Latvia.

Syria is not the only place where the Russian Federation’s military has caused massive displacements of people and redrawn the world map. Crimea and Donbas in Ukraine have been the subject of Russia’s aggression recently. Eight years ago, parts of Georgia were seized. And this is only the history over the past decade.

Most of us believe in civilization, in the creative and constructive forces, and the moral force that arises from civilized modern democratic societies. We respect and even celebrate cultures and traditions that are not our own. Like the author of the article, we too would like to believe that the same Russia that has shown such utter disregard for human life and international law in Syria, Ukraine, and Georgia would never contemplate similar adventures in countries along the Baltic Sea.

Canadian soldiers will form the core of the multinational battle group in Latvia. In 2017, Canadians will have joined Italians, Spanish, Slovenians, Albanians, and Poles in boosting security and deterrence for our country and region, and democratic Europe as a whole. It is not a question of economics or an economic boom; the author’s sarcasm is out of place and totally inappropriate.

This decision was made in the context of a NATO-wide effort to update policies and posture. The 28 NATO nations have taken a mutual pledge to be present for one another at critical moments when the going gets tough.

As a country representing the principle of strength in diversity, most would agree that Canada has a natural role in bolstering the rules-based international order with its humanistic values and dynamic diplomacy. Yes, you can stay at home. That is also a choice. But you can also go out and do things that will keep our history on track. The Baltic Sea area is one in which many Canadians feel a close connection, either through friends or through direct family roots.

It is truly important in these times to look over the horizon and not to look away from what is happening. Actions speak louder the words. Adopt a broad perspective on Canada’s contribution of soldiers; see this as a multinational effort and recognize that this is a time where both the moves we make and the moves we don’t make could count for a lot.

Kārlis Eihenbaums

Ambassador of Latvia to Canada

Ottawa, Ont.

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