Latvia and the USA: From Captive Nation to Strategic Partner
Editor Daunis Auers
In order to commemorate Latvia’s 90th birthday, the Embassy of Latvia commissioned the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute at the University of Latvia to prepare a wide-ranging overview of US relations with Latvia from 1918 to the present. When we began work on the project, we discovered that surprisingly little had been written on the topic. The only two aspects that had attracted the attention of scholars until recently were the US policy of non-recognition of the forcible incorporation of Latvia and its Baltic neighbors into the Soviet Union and the role of Latvian-American émigrés as lobbyists, advocates and providers of assistance to Latvia. Thus, much of the book covers fresh ground and relies on new archival research, fresh survey data and interviews.
The core of the book consists of nine substantive chapters split into two sections – one on “Latvia and America in the Twentieth Century”, the other on “Contemporary Relations”. The young expatriate historian Aldis Purs analyses the first encounters of American aid workers and diplomats with “weak and half-starved peoples” in Latvia during World War I and concludes with the rather harsh assessments of Latvia by US diplomat and architect of post-war Soviet containment policy George Kennan, who was stationed in Latvia in the interwar years. “Repatriate” Latvian-American historian/journalist Pauls Raudseps analyses the “long vigil” of US-Latvian relations during the Cold War, arguing that the non-recognition policy represented America at its principled best. Through original archival research in the Foreign Ministry, Daunis Auers (also the book’s editor), shows how the work of the Latvian Legation in Washington, DC, went from being a marginal curiosity during much of the Cold War to an important player during the restoration of independence. Wrapping up the first section, long-time Latvian-American activist Ojârs Celle provides an overview of the émigré contribution to keeping the idea of independence alive and making it a reality.
The second section focuses on contemporary relations. Þaneta Ozoliòa, Latvia’s top foreign policy expert, interviewed many Latvian diplomats to compile an overview of Latvia’s often close cooperation with America in international organizations. Seasoned foreign affairs analyst Atis Lejiòð compares and contrasts relations over the presidencies of two Bush’s and Bill Clinton. Ieva Morica, long the director of the Baltic American Partnership Program, a joint venture between the American government and George Soros’ Open Society Institute, analyses the American contribution to building civil society in Latvia. George Vîksniòð, professor at Georgetown University and former advisor to the Bank of Latvia, reminisces about the influence on Latvian reforms of the “Georgetown Gang” – a group of influential Latvians who went to Washington to study economics. Finally, political analysts Nils Muiþnieks and Pçteris Viòíelis investigate the sources and manifestations of a new phenomenon in Latvia – anti-Americanism.
The book also contains fascinating personal reflections by some key policy-makers on both the Latvian and American sides, including current Latvian Foreign Minister Mâris Riekstiòð, former Latvian Ambassador to the US Ojârs Kalniòð, and former US ambassador to Latvia Ints Siliòð. The biggest names sharing their memories, however, are Strobe Talbott, who was Clinton’s core Russia adviser, and Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State under George W. Bush. Visual “memories” are provided by a pictures of some key moments in Latvian-American relations. The end of the book contains a useful collection of key documents and speeches.
The book will be available for purchase in December 2008 in the major bookstores in Latvia (Valters un Rapa, Jânis Roze). Electronic versions will be available free of charge on the web site of the Advanced Social and Political Research Institute (http://szf.lu.lv/szf/lat/70/index.htm), as well as on the www.politika.lv web site.