On 11 October 2021 in Chevening, the South East of England, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, together with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, Eva-Maria Liimets, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Gabrielius Landsbergis, met with the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs of the United Kingdom, Elizabeth Truss. The ministers discussed current security policy matters and global challenges, including relationship with Russia, Belarus, China, as well as NATO’s agenda and European security issues.
Edgars Rinkēvičs voiced an opinion that Russia is currently not a responsible international player. A principled position is needed to ensure which it is important that the Western democracies respond in a concerted manner to human rights violations by Russia in the matters of external relations, and violations of human rights and democratic freedoms in Russia itself.
It must be concluded with regret that the State Duma elections in Russia were held under the conditions that ran contrary to democratic practices, the standards of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and Russia’s international commitments, the Latvian Foreign Minister noted. He added that we currently see neither any change in Russia’s position nor any preparedness to possible compromises and constructive cooperation. The confrontation in relations with Russia is expected to last and a consistent approach must therefore be followed while sustaining our common values and principles, Minister Rinkēvičs asserted.
Referring to developments in Belarus, Edgars Rinkēvičs said he was certain about the Lukashenko regime being responsible for the crisis at the border with the European Union. Belarusian authorities deliberately subject the nationals of third countries to danger. In view of this, international organisations should continue exerting pressure on Belarus, including by stronger sanctions. At the border with Belarus, we are facing a hybrid attack organised by Alexander Lukashenko to destabilise situation in EU Member States, Edgars Rinkēvičs pointed out. Belarusian authorities should assume full responsibility for what is going on and discontinue the unacceptable practice of instrumentalising vulnerable people for political goals. The crisis orchestrated by Belarus at the border is an asymmetric response to the EU’s firm stand concerning the ongoing reprisals and human rights violations in Belarus and the sanctions imposed by the EU. By protecting the EU’s external border, Latvia is honouring its international commitments, Edgars Rinkēvičs underlined.
As the ministers discussed relations with China, the Latvian Foreign Minister stated Latvia’s interest in a closer coordination with like-minded countries, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Ministers shared opinions concerning the cooperation of their countries in NATO. Edgars Rinkēvičs welcomed the United Kingdom’s strong support for strengthening security in the Baltic region and across Europe by acting as the framework nation of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence battle group in Estonia and taking part in the Baltic Air Policing mission on a regular basis.
The situation in Afghanistan was another topic discussed during the meeting. The Latvian Foreign Minister called for maintaining a unified position by the international community on the issue of Afghanistan. Latvia supports the principles which were identified at the EU’s informal Foreign Affairs Council and against which the EU will evaluate Taliban’s actions and possibilities for further cooperation that include terrorism prevention, respect for human rights, inclusive governance, free access for deliveries of humanitarian aid and the possibility for Afghans to leave. A coordinated assistance by the UN and the EU must also be ensured to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
The ministers also addressed cyber-security issues, which have been playing an important role in the context of international security. Increasingly more often that space and cyber-instruments are used for malicious activities such as spying, non-sanctioned access to information and data, the spread of disinformation, and compromising vital information and communication technology systems. Much ground has been covered at the UN level to promote security and stability in cyber-space; however, at this point, increased attention should be devoted to cyber-security issues. Western countries together with like-minded partners should continue actively advocating and promoting a responsible behaviour in cyber-space.