Take fight for world democracy away from our border – Latvian Minister

Two Latvian ministers have had a heated public argument over Georgia, Russia, principles and pragmatism.

Transport Minister Ainars Slesers and Economy Minister Kaspars Gerhards were talking to journalists during a visit to Kazakhstan. The discussion of trade ties and transit services got much more agitated when it came to the Ossetian war in August.

Slesers, who advocates better relations with Russia, lashed out at Latvia’s position on the Caucasian conflict. Business&Baltics daily quotes him as saying: “I condole the Georgian people very much, but my opinion is that Saakasvili is to blame for the situation. He started the military conflict! That’s a fact! We should condemn him.”

Then Gerhards argued: “But there are principles we must talk about. Those are inviolability of state borders and democracy!”

“Of course there are. But why should we be the standard bearer in this fight? If Latvia is so eager to fight for worldwide democracy, let it fight against Cuba, Venezuela and North Korea. They are not our neighbours; we don’t have business with them,” replied Slesers.

He went on: “We’ve failed to use a good chance to hold our voice. Why quarrel with Russia? It’s the only country that can make up for the losses we have over the crisis in the West!”

“Take Finland – it may not support Russia in everything, but it also doesn’t grab the flag and lead the parade with its disapproval! Let others lead a fight against Russia. Why should we do it?” Slesers said.

Gerhards said: “I disagree. It corresponds neither with my historical expedience not with what happened in Georgia.”

The argument ended when Slesers commented that the two ministers were from different parties but both held the wellbeing of the Latvian economy as priority.

Latvia was among the first countries to condemn Russia over its military operation in South Ossetia. Latvian President Valdis Zatlers along with several Eastern European leaders flew to Tbilisi personally to support Georgia.

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