Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Krišjānis Kariņš received the mandate of the White House to govern Latvia
The four-month epic connected to the creation of a government coalition in Latvia, full of squabbles and cynical exchanges, ended very simply. Washington was tired of watching the “democratic exercises” that threatened to shake the stability of its Baltic ally or, even worse, allow “undesirable” politicians to come to power, and thus dictated the composition of the new Latvian office.
The US citizen Krišjānis Kariņš became the prime minister of Latvia, despite the fact that his party “New Unity”, which has the least number of seats in the Saeima (8 out of 100), barely got into Parliament. Kariņš didn’t participate in parliamentary elections because of his fear of failure, having preferred to remain a European Parliament deputy. However, more importantly, it is well-known and personally pleasing to the notorious “Washington Regional Committee”.
The party of Kariņš, despite any “quotas”, also moved into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance. These three posts, including the premiership, ensure external transatlantic control over Latvia. The rest, including the dwarfish Ministry of Defence, doesn’t play a role. And, as Kariņš declared, he doesn’t intend to renounce his US citizenship.
Krišjānis Kariņš was born on December 13th 1964 in the American state of Delaware in a family of post-war emigrants from Latvia. He studied at St. John’s College in Annapolis (mathematics, philosophy, and literature) and Pennsylvanian University (linguistics). In 1994 he moved to Latvia. He gave lectures at the Latvian University on sociolinguistics. He was the head of an ice production company, and sold second-hand cars and office equipment. And it is here that the business experience of the current Prime Minister comes to an end. His career abruptly went uphill when Kariņš realised that it is much more profitable to be involved in representing the interests of his former homeland – the United States.
Having become one of the leading American lobbyists on the political scene of Latvia, Kariņš in 2002 was elected as a deputy of the Saeima, in 2004-2006 he became the Minister of Economics in the government of Aigars Kalvītis, and since 2009 he has been a European Parliament deputy. According to the research of the “VoteWatch Europe” organisation, he is the most influential Baltic politician in the European Parliament. Kariņš was a part of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs, the Special Committee on Financial Crimes, and the delegation of the European Parliament for cooperation with the US. I.e., he was “our (American) guy” in Brussels.
Despite the fact that Kariņš is a linguist and speaks many languages, he doesn’t know Russian. His attitude towards Russia has been consistently hostile. In 2012 the “Native Language” society submitted a statement to the Prosecutor-General’s Office, in which it called to start criminal trial concerning Kariņš. As justification, his interview with the Playboy magazine was cited, where Kariņš stated: “We need the Russians who grow up here to grow up as Latvians. Yes, of course, this is a politically heretical thought. We should understand that integration leads to assimilation. This is what our aim should be – to assimilate their children”. No measures were taken concerning Kariņš after his racist/fascist statements.
The moderately “pro-Russian” party “Saskaņa” (20% of votes) of Nils Ušakovs, which came 1st in elections, remained outside the government coalition. Despite the fact that this time the basis of its electoral list consisted of ethnic Latvians, they didn’t even want to talk to “Saskaņa” concerning its entry into office. However, this time “Saskaņa” won’t be, like in the past, in proud loneliness. The Union of Greens and Farmers of Augusts Brigmanis, which also collected 10% of votes, also remained in opposition. Concerning many important questions demanding a constitutional majority, these two parties may collect a blocking package that binds the hands of the new government.
The main intrigue in the drawing up of the ruling coalition unfolded around the position of the second most voted-for party (14%) “Who owns the state?” (“KPV LV”) of the popular, but as it became clear, “ambivalent” actor Artuss Kaimiņš. It wasn’t excluded, including in the West, that KPV LV can form a coalition with “Saskaņa”, and concerning this party a special operation was carried out – the hand of the skilled puppeteer that is behind it can be guessed. Discord was introduced in relations between its leaders – Kariņš and the candidate for the premiership from KPV LV Aldis Gobzems.
In December, when the process of coordination was at full deadlock, audio recordings of a meeting between Gobzems and the leadership of one of the right-wing parties was allegedly anonymously transferred to Kaimiņš. In the recordings the latter spoke negatively about his party leader. A proud Kaimiņš took offense and ceased to insist on Gobzems’s candidacy for the premiership and opted to make a deal with Kariņš.
This subversive interference in domestic politics didn’t bother anybody. Moreover, Gobzems declared that members of his faction were being given, via the intermediary from Switzerland Rudolf Meroni, for sums of money in exchange for the “correct” voting in the cabinet. In the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB) Gobzems confirmed his accusation. It is safe to predict that progress concerning this statement won’t be allowed. As a result, only 11 of the 16 members of the KPV LV faction voted for Kariņš. Five deputies, along with Gobzems, without leaving the faction, voted against, which looks strange and, perhaps, foretells a split in the party.
Concerning the party program, it is enough to mention that instead of the hour that was allocated to Krišjānis Kariņš, the new Prime Minister submitted it in the Saeima during 15 minutes. Actually, what can be said when everything is clear? As is said in Washington, so be it.
In accordance with the latest demands of president Trump, the new cabinet assumed the obligation to bring defence expenditure to 2% of GDP, which the richer countries of Europe avoid doing. A readiness to strengthen the continuous presence of NATO troops on the territory of Latvia, including the creation of a HQ for a multinational NATO division, was expressed. The full integration of the country’s energy market into the European system with a decreased dependence on Russia, including on gas, was announced. One of the bullet points of the program became a ban on former nomenklatura of the USSR holding state positions. The term “ethnic minorities” disappeared from the government declaration. There is no division into Latvian and Russian schools. It is seen that the words of Kariņš about the need to “assimilate Russians” were not empty.
Kariņš and the Latvian elite still don’t want to see that, developing as a bridge between Russia and Europe, Latvia reaches a central role in such a system with all the advantages that it implies. When the republic is fixated on being “only in Europe”, it dooms itself to the fate of a distant periphery.
In the conditions of growing American-European contradictions, the transition to the direct control of American over Latvia doesn’t promise anything good either. Its economic ties with the European Union repeatedly exceed what Latvia receives from America. It is reckless to sacrifice this for the sake of proving loyalty to the White House.
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