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Trump's Rhetoric, A Cause For Concern In The Baltics
23 January, 2017

What You Need To Know:

✅ “Trump’s rhetoric is a cause for concern in the Baltics region;”

✅ Trump’s consistent praise for Russian President Putin is also concerning for the Baltics;

✅ “The fact that he doesn't seem to see that as a problem is very much a problem for us, and a cause for concern as well;”

✅ Latvia will perhaps look to strengthen its relationships with Nordic countries and Poland: “If you look at the military budgets of the Nordic States, the Baltic states, and Poland put together, they are half as large as Russia's whole defense budget, but the GDP is a lot higher in these countries.”

✅ “Trump’s rhetoric is a cause for concern here,” says Latvian journalist, Paul Raudseps. While politicians in the Latvia have not officially expressed their worries, Raudseps believes that many are quite apprehensive about what President Trump voiced during his campaign and more recently in his inauguration, saying and asserting that he will put America first.

Trump’s consistent praise for Russian President Putin is also concerning for the Baltics, explains Raudseps. The American president’s friendliness towards the Russian regime, especially after it invaded Ukraine and created problems in the region is worrisome. “The fact that he doesn't seem to see that as a problem is very much a problem for us, and a cause for concern as well,” says Raudseps.

As a result, Latvia will perhaps look to strengthen its relationships with Nordic countries and Poland, in the long-term. According to columnist George Lucas, “If you look at the military budgets of the Nordic States, the Baltic states, and Poland put together, they are half as large as Russia's whole defense budget, but the GDP is a lot higher in these countries.”

Hromadske’s Nataliya Gumenyuk spoke to Pauls Raudseps, Latvian Journalist, 'Ir' Magazine Founder via Skype on January 22, 2017 in Kyiv.

 

U.S President-elect, Donald J. Trump, Washington D.C., 20/01/2017. Source: Reuters

2016 was a very successful year for the Baltics, what are the concerns, what do people, the decision makers, in Latvia and in the region think?

None of the politicians here are willing to come out and express their concerns, but I think behind the scenes, a lot of people are worried, maybe even quite worried about what Trump has said during his campaign.

And now his inauguration speech where he specifically said that America first. He will look at all issues through the prism of whether, in his opinion, it's to the benefit of America and the only context in which he mentioned alliances was in the fight against ISIS. It is a cause for concern, of course.

Of course, we are very hardened and it's very good to see that American troops are arriving in the region; we just saw about 6000 American troops and armor and an armored personnel carrier is being transported over the ocean. Disembarked in Germany, move over to Poland, some of them will move on to the Baltics as well. So that's good. While they are on the ground here, it's much more difficult to move them out. But as I said, Trump's rhetoric is a cause for concern here.

 

U.S. troops have been sent to Poland as a part of NATO  show of force, Zagan, Poland, 14/01/2017. Source: Reuters

What are the thoughts of the public on this? What are the other top priorities/expectations of the Baltics from Trump besides prolonging the support of NATO

Well, I think his consistent praise for Vladimir Putin has not gone unnoticed and that's the second reason for concern. I mean not only his policies of putting America first but the fact that he's quite clearly very friendly or wants to be a very friendly toward the Russian regime and sees it primarily as an ally in the fight against ISIS and doesn't see all the problems that it's causing in our region: the invasion of Ukraine, the continuing war that it's supporting. The fact that he doesn't seem to see that as a problem is very much a problem for us, and a cause for concern as well.

The second thing we are becoming more and more aware of is, as you know, when Trump got elected you could hear from a lot of people that he's going to put in good advisers, people who know the world, who'll tell him the right thing to do. That he's inexperienced, and they'll teach him how to act. It's not clear whether he'll listen to those people at all. So maybe he will and maybe he won't pay any attention and they'll be able to carry on the previous policies.

Appointment of General Mattis as the Secretary of Defense is a good sign. Everything that he said is something that we find very positive. The incoming Secretary of State - if he's approved - also said positive things about NATO although I think that his stance on sanctions was a little concerning: he wasn't perhaps as strong on those as we would've wanted and I’m sure as Ukraine would want.

James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Washington D.C., 12/01/2017. Source: Reuters

So these are the issues of concern as well, in this context, where the Baltic States are really looking for strengthening our relationships with Nordic countries, with Poland, to look for cooperation on this front.

As Edward Lucas, a columnist journalist has written, if you look at the military budgets of the Nordic States, the Baltic states, and Poland put together, they are half as large as Russia's whole defense budget, but the GDP is a lot higher in these countries.

So in fact, if we can cooperate, maybe there is some ground for support there. But it's a new area and there's a lot to do there so it's not something that would happen quickly. It's a long-term project at best.