About the political passions, security aspects and issues brought to the “Northern European Policy Center”, a conversation on the TV24 program “Dienas personība” with the former Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, the director of the “Northern European Policy Center” thinks. tank Arti Pabrikus.
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Velta Puriņa: Both society, experts and politicians themselves are waiting for a new prime minister and a new government. What do you think, if the “New Unity” will correct the mistakes of its previous government by appointing a new prime minister and forming a government?
Artis Pabriks: Of course, life will show whether the mistakes will be corrected or new mistakes will be made, but we have to see this change in the prime minister and the government in a big context with what happened in the spring, namely and presidential elections. . “Jauna Vienotība” understands that a number of things were allowed to happen, decisions were not made in time. And, of course, it also takes time to be able to report back on these problems or mistakes, and a change of prime minister or government always gives some kind of extra time.
This, first of all, is beneficial to be able to get more time for what has not been done, and secondly, it is a debt for the presidential election that will be fixed in a way. These are two reasons for changing the government.
“Jauna Vienotība” was very successful in last year’s election and continues these attempts to strengthen its power in the government even more. There are two elements here. One is the presidential election, where they made the promises of the ZZS, and the other is the attempt to attract the “Progressive” party as their smallest ally, which they believe could strengthen the role of the “New Unity” in government and politics .
What do you think, would an expanded five-party coalition be effective enough for the job?
First of all, I see the relatively big problem of uniting the five parties in this coalition. Of course, it is nice to talk about it, as the previous prime minister did, but it is very difficult for me to imagine how, for example, the “National Union” could be in the same coalition as the “Progressives”. Indeed, it is almost impossible.
Secondly, there is also the question of “Joint List”, because they had a very positive offer for the position of Prime Minister or President – Mr. Pilene. He’s a type A political figure. You may like him or not, but either way, he’s a big deal. And when naming the next candidate for prime minister here, for example, questions may arise as to why they call Evika Siliņa instead of Mr. Pīlēnas.
If we talk about a new prime minister, now “Jauna Vienotība” is headed by Evik Silina. Evika Siliņa once worked hand in hand with the prime minister and minister of “Jaunas Vienotības”. What is your impression of his work ability?
Evika Siliņa is a very attractive politician. As we know, he has been the minister’s parliamentary secretary for a long time and is now the prime minister’s parliamentary secretary, which means he knows what is on the political agenda. In today’s conditions, when you talk about the border guard or the construction of a fence or any other issue, it is the matter where Mrs. Silina has a historical memory.
On the other hand, now in the cabinet as a minister, we could not say that Mrs. Silina has clearly shown herself, so if she continues in the same way she did in the current ministry, then of course questions will arise, if any dynamism or efficiency will come here at all.
It seems to me that there are attempts to draw the attention of “New Unity” to politicians from the second row. Because the “New Unit” understands very well that it is now in the Zenith, and from the Zenith only the way down. That is why they try to regroup with such a preventive step, change the prime minister to the next in time, and in this way get time and, of course, recognition.
Now the issue of border protection and border issues, which has been dealt with for many years, has come up again. Already during your ministry talked about the construction of the border fence. You participated in the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on these issues, you drove on the spot… Can you tell me now what is holding you back?
I think that the question of building a border fence could be better answered by people like, for example, Evika Siliņa, who has also been working on this matter for the last decade. The construction of a border fence is not new, it was brought back when we faced the organized push of immigrants across our borders by Belarus and Russia. But the fact that the fence had to be built, this problem was around for about ten years.
As for the defense industry, we’ve done everything we can to help the Border Patrol when it’s needed to secure that border, and that’s what you’ve seen now. The situation has not changed in the defensive system. When General Pujats and the Internal Affairs branch ask for help, the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces will always provide that help. As we saw in the last exercises, especially in the Latgale region, where our soldiers drove through the streets with their new armored vehicles, being physically present created a positive impression in the society that we are ready to protect every master in Latvia.
Is this threat greater now, for example, because of Wagner, I would say that we must observe carefully, monitor what is happening here on the border, but I do not think that Wagner or their presence in Belarus can be radically change this threat. in any way, that we have.
Yes, we must be ready, there may be some provocations, but at the moment the main thing is that we can control all the so-called green border and help the border guard to do it. The armed forces are ready for this.
But can it not be called a provocation that the number of violators sent by known structures from Belarus across our border increases every day?
Of course, these are provocations. These migrants are specially organized and the flow of these migrants either increases or decreases in waves at the borders of Poland, Lithuania or Latvia. And this has been happening with us since 2019. We also talked seriously about this in the European Union, that we do not need help for migrant camps, but we need help to strengthen the border.
From a military point of view, because I’m more interested in that military point of view, what the Department of the Interior does with the construction of the fence is of little importance from a military point of view. This fence will not be able to stop tanks, armored vehicles, or any military invasion. Therefore, our question is how we can strengthen the border area more militarily. Several steps have already been taken.
First, our units must be closer. Secondly, we made a decision that Russia did not like very much, so the “players” were activated on the territory of Latvia, both in the non-governmental sector and in the political sector, so that there would be no discharge of Selia. Because the Selia landfill actually provides more security in the eastern part of Latvia.
If we know from history, the invasion and occupation of Latvia, for example in 1940, took place very close to these territories, through Lithuania. Therefore, Selia’s discharge will be of great importance. Until recently, I visited Vilnius for a conference and the Lithuanians were very interested in how the construction of the landfill Selia is developing, because there is no landfill of this type in Lithuania. On the other hand, we in Latvia have the two biggest landfills in the Baltic countries – Ādaži and Sēlija. And it helps not only with training, but also with our border security.
Speaking of your pet peeve, the national defense service, how do you see it being implemented now?
Of course, we had ambitions for this service to be up and running as soon as possible and to be as large and efficient as possible. The election pushed this initiative to a bit of cancellation, but I’m glad it happened. I am grateful to the Latvian Armed Forces that they are able to face this task, because it is a big challenge. As much as possible, I follow both the national defense service and our new cadet school in Skrunda, which, in my opinion, is a great contribution to the youth of Latvia. When these first volunteers come back, I would like to see their feedback, and I am sure that this service will change the attitude of Latvian society towards compulsory service in a positive direction.
Can you be satisfied with the steps you started in the Ministry of Defense?
The strength of the defense industry is that when ministers change, it more or less continues what was started earlier. We may be from different parties, but I have never denied the contributions of those defense ministers who came before me. And I tried not only to always continue what was done before, but also what can be improved and where possible to give my best. I hope that this will continue in the new government that is being formed today.
One of your positive initiatives was the expansion of the military industry by involving our own entrepreneurs.
It has to do with what I would expect from the government and what I would understand, which is that we must give a free hand to those who can work, who can come with an offer, and then the government always wins. to help these entrepreneurs. I would say that in the military industry we have made great strides forward in recent years. At least in the same drone production. I will not be afraid to say that Latvian industry is at least two years ahead of Estonia and Lithuania. And this is the sector in which we are not shy in the Baltics.
Also, we are moving forward with plans to attract European funds for the production of ammunition powder, which is not developed at all in the Baltics. Also the production of “Patria” armored vehicles in the Baltic countries, we are the only country that produces these armored vehicles.
If you have money, it is not difficult to go buy something in the market. It is harder to manufacture, harder to maintain, harder to repair and harder to innovate. But here Latvia has advantages, where we have a tool in the Baltics. And if the next government does not continue this, then, unfortunately, this industry will not only lose competition, but we can also threaten the security of Latvia in this way. The military industry not only has an economic future with jobs and exports, but it plays a very important role in shaping the defense and security of Latvia. And we know that Russia will continue to be a threat to our region and we must take care of ourselves.
Watch the video of the entire conversation with Arti Pabrika!
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