Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Did The Cold War Ever End In The Baltics?

Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post: In tense confrontation with Russia, a battle over history suggests Cold War never ended

BALTIC CURTAIN | This is part of a series examining the new front lines in a Cold-War-style confrontation between Russia and the West.

RIGA, Latvia — For years, the team of researchers worked in obscurity, patiently tallying what they say is the economic toll of Latvia’s decades under Soviet rule.

The answer, they decided this spring, is $205 billion. They didn’t expect the firestorm that would come next. The report added ammunition to a raging battle between Russia and the West over history and influence. Russia’s top diplomat said Latvians should be grateful the Kremlin wasn’t more violent when they broke from the Soviet Union in 1991. Then the Russian Foreign Ministry announced a competition to pick who could mock the scholars the best.

The conflict between Russia and the West is being fought not just with tanks and troops stationed on either side of the border, but also with dueling versions of the past. Few places feel it more strongly than Latvia. Leaders have battled with their domestic Russian-speaking population and with the Kremlin about whether their country’s decades-long incorporation into the Soviet Union was voluntary or an occupation. With the Kremlin reaching deep into the pages of history to justify its actions in Crimea, Latvians say the fight over the past has ­present-day consequences for their security — and they are calling for Western support not just with weaponry but also in the battle of ideas. The concerns have grown even stronger after the British vote to leave the European Union, with the Baltics losing a key ally in the bloc.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: Kudos to the Washington Post for at least acknowledging that Russians who have lived in Latvia for years and/or for generations and who are not fluent in the Latvian language are denied citizenship rights. And this is the rub .... and one of the reasons there are tensions in places like Latvia. The Latvians may look at Moscow as a threat, but the real threat (to them) are their own citizens (who are Russian) .... and their attempts to marginalise them (while requesting NATO backing) is only stirring a pot that should not be stirred.

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