Edgars Rinkēvičs said in an interview with the Associated Press that “it is important to really fight for international peace and for peace in Europe, because if we stop Russia in Ukraine, then Russia will not be able to challenge other countries.
He highlighted the disruptive role played by the Russian mercenary group Wagner in Africa and Russian meetings with officials from Hamas, the ruling militants in the Gaza Strip, whose surprise attack in Israel on October 7 killed some 1 200 people.
In July, Rinkēvičs was sworn in as president of Latvia, which was part of the Soviet Union until its breakup in August 1991. The Baltic nation, population 1.9 million, joined in 2004 the European Union and NATO, thus occupying a key position. on their eastern flank with its 214-kilometer (133-mile) border with Russia.
Rinkēvičs, who served as Latvia’s foreign minister for 13 years before being elected president, said that while some members of the 27-member EU had “their opinions”, the alliance was ultimately agreed to sanction Russia and provide more support. in Ukraine following the Russian invasion of February 2022.
“It’s interesting that at this point the EU is more divided on the Middle East issue than on Ukraine,” he said in Thursday’s interview.
He said it was important for the West to support Ukraine and Israel against attacks on “our values” and the international order. He also stressed the need to promote humanitarian pauses in the fighting in Gaza to provide assistance to Palestinian civilians, whose death toll in Israeli retaliation for the Hamas attack has exceeded 11,000, according to the Ministry of Defense. Gaza Health.
Rinkēvičs said Iran was “very happy to see this kind of development in the Middle East,” and highlighted Tehran’s supply of weapons and other equipment to Russia for its fight in Ukraine.
It is in NATO’s security interests “that both cases be considered in the same way”, he said. “I also believe that it will be much easier for us to maintain peace in Europe if Ukraine succeeds rather than letting it fall, or importantly, but also letting the situation in the Middle East spiral out of control.”
Rinkēvičs said Ukrainian soldiers are fighting “in a very courageous way” and that the West has a responsibility to respond to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for more weapons, “because we have not provided as much that we should have.”
He said Russia was mobilizing its economy, resources and military equipment “for a very long war.” Moscow now wants to “strangle” Ukraine, he said, predicting that Moscow would resume its attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in the coming months, as it did last winter.
Rinkēvičs said the EU and NATO must prepare for a long war in Ukraine.
“The EU realized that we needed more defense and military assets,” he said. “And at this point, I would like to see the process be a little quicker.” But despite everything, these things are finally moving.
But many European NATO members have yet to meet the target of spending 2% of their GDP on defense, he said, adding that Latvia plans to spend 2.4% of its GDP on defense next year and 3% in 2027. European defense industrial production must be increased, he added.
Many experts and officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hope is to survive Western support for Ukraine in a long war.
“I think it is very important that he fails,” Rinkēvičs said.
If the world sees Europe and the United States failing to provide support to Ukraine, he said, “then I think that will increase pressure on Israel.”
“I also think Iran is going to be more assertive,” he said. “Let’s also not forget the entire Asian region, and let’s not forget Taiwan.”
The Latvian leader said Russia was moving from an autocracy to a totalitarian regime and was resorting to propaganda worse than that of the Cold War.
They show “brutal images, videos or animated videos about the destruction of cities in Europe or the United States using nuclear weapons, claiming that the use of nuclear weapons is not in reality “just child’s play,” he said.
They call Ukrainians “a sort of inferior human race – that sounds a lot like what Nazi Germany said about Jews,” he added.
If people can accept a gay head of state, Rinkēvičs said, “then I believe that very quickly they will also be more inclusive, more open to the whole community. This is the message that I hope will be received everywhere else.