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Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karinš: No fatigue from Ukraine, we are ready to help you until victory

Latvian Foreign Minister Krisjanis Karinš: No fatigue from Ukraine, we are ready to help you until victory Krisjanis Karinš (GettyImages)

In an exclusive interview with RBC-Ukraine, the Latvian Foreign Minister, Krisjanis Karins, discussed key issues such as the West's potential to provide more weaponry to Ukraine, expectations for the coming year regarding Ukraine's path to the European Union and NATO, and the unity of NATO countries in their approaches toward Ukraine.

The recent two-day summit of NATO foreign ministers naturally placed Ukraine among the main topics of discussion. During the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba presented the annual national program - a list of reforms Ukraine needs to undertake in its journey toward NATO. However, the successful implementation of these reforms does not guarantee automatic NATO membership, as it requires a political decision from all current Alliance members.

The official invitation to NATO is also a political matter, and it didn't materialize during this year's summit in Vilnius due to the positions of the United States and Germany. After the current ministerial meeting in Brussels, it remains unclear what Ukraine can expect from the next NATO summit in Washington.

Most NATO foreign ministers generally commented cautiously on the topic of Ukraine, assuring continued support. However, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, stood out with his criticism of NATO colleagues for their reluctance to provide Ukraine with necessary weaponry, which, according to him, is available in NATO countries. This statement sparked discussions at the summit, leading RBC-Ukraine to engage in a sideline conversation with the former Prime Minister and current Latvian Foreign Minister, and potential candidate for the next NATO Secretary-General, Krisjanis Karins.

- Could you comment on yesterday's statement from your colleague, the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis? He mentioned that NATO has certain weaponry that could enable Ukraine to achieve the technological breakthrough General Zaluzhnyi recently spoke about. Do you agree, and if so, what specific weaponry are we talking about?

- I don't want to comment on what my good friend and colleague said because I haven't seen or heard exactly what he said. But it's evident that Ukraine needs our individual and collective support. One of the topics being discussed now is long-range missiles.

In my country, we don't have them. Many NATO countries don't produce them, but some NATO countries have them. And as we've seen in the past year and a half, almost two years actually, the supply of new weaponry systems often faces initial strong reluctance, hesitation, then a "maybe," and finally, as we see with the F-16, there is the F-16 coalition. Member states are almost competing to be part of the coalition, and that's a good thing.

So, when President Zelenskyy initially talked about this idea, the reaction was very negative, but now it's very positive, and Ukrainian pilots are already undergoing training. I believe the same might happen with long-range artillery.

How Ukrainian military utilizes any equipment to achieve results is a question for military generals. From the beginning of the war, my colleague Landsbergis and I have consistently said that we need to maintain momentum, sustain support for Ukraine so that Ukraine can defeat the enemy and reclaim its territory.

We know and understand it's a tough fight because the Russian army is entrenched with mines, trenches, and artillery. It's a challenging situation, but not an impossible one; it just requires a different tactic: you can't just rush into gunfire and die.

The Ukrainian army values the life of every soldier, unlike the Russian army, meaning you have to act smarter. I'm confident Ukrainian generals know how to do it. They have proven themselves again and again. What we need to do is show persistence and provide the weaponry systems they understand they need.

- Do you believe Ukraine should expect some significant positive breakthroughs in both European and Euro-Atlantic integration next year?

- Regarding European integration, I sincerely hope that we, the European Union, will be able to accept the European Commission's proposal to officially open negotiations in December. I think it's extremely important symbolically and practically.

Even if such negotiations open during peacetime, it's a complicated process. And your country is undertaking reforms during a war, something no one has ever had to do. The fact that you are willing to do it already speaks to the determination of your country. I am very convinced, and we will prove this at the December summit, about saying "yes" (to the decision to open negotiations with Ukraine, - ed.).

As for NATO integration, we already made a decision in Vilnius this summer. The decision states that Ukraine will be in NATO when conditions permit. The conditions are the war, but what we need to do, moving towards Washington (the next NATO summit in Washington, - ed.), in July, in about six months, is to work and coordinate a roadmap or steps that NATO will take to help Ukraine be ready to join.

Because it's one thing to say someone will be in NATO, and it's entirely different to be prepared for it. So, there are issues of operational compatibility, military procedures, and legislative matters.

My country, like every NATO member, had to adopt all their systems, especially concerning military compatibility. And we have to help Ukraine take all these steps so that when the time comes, Ukraine is also ready.

- How concerned should Ukraine be about the current delays with the new major aid package from the United States?

- I am a politician, and I understand that there's a lot of politics surrounding this issue. According to some analyses, this politics might not even be directly related to Ukraine but more tied to the internal politics of the United States. However, we have repeatedly seen the U.S. navigate through this.

The political leadership (of the U.S.) has a very clear stance, and I believe it's just a matter of time before Congress supports the aid packages.

- You had extensive discussions with your fellow ministers yesterday and today. I won't ask you to name specific countries, but overall, do you see all allies, particularly Western and Central-Eastern European countries, on the same page regarding Ukraine and all matters related to the war?

- If there was anything striking, it's how unremarkable our conversation was. Everyone around the table pretty much said the same things, albeit in slightly different words. The message conveyed was that there is no fatigue (towards Ukraine). Everyone is ready to continue support as much as needed, or until victory. It's a matter of perseverance.

Countries have different capabilities. Different reserves, different defense systems. Some can provide more money, some more weapons, and some both. Some are much more active, let's say, on a humanitarian level. All of this is necessary, and we all need to continue supporting Ukraine's budget so that the Ukrainian government can keep functioning.

The political will at the NATO table is absolutely clear. It's just a matter of implementation.

- Who currently holds the initiative in the Russian-Ukrainian war, and do you see any prospects for ending this war, say, next year?

- I think a military expert should answer that question. I am a politician. My government, NATO governments, and European governments fully support the Ukrainian government. And we will continue to do so. I'm not concerned with whether a kilometer is gained today on one side or the other (referring to fluctuations in the front line).

It's a fact of war, and war has different cycles. There's weather, supply lines, contingencies, all sorts of issues. So, I don't focus on what's happening today.

Ukraine has already done an astonishing job. The determination of the Ukrainian people, the courage and strength of the Ukrainian army, are commendable.

You have already reclaimed half of the territory that Russia had taken. You have inflicted incredible damage on Russian military assets, not to mention the human losses, which are individual tragedies.

Unfortunately, unlike President Zelenskyy, who cares about the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, it seems that President Putin does not have the same concern for the lives of Russian soldiers, which is extremely sad for them and their families.

But soldiers do what they do. They stop and repel attackers, which is exactly what the Ukrainians are doing.

Winter is approaching, days are getting darker. Perhaps life seems worse to some people. But I'm not worried. I am confident that Ukrainian soldiers know what to do. And we will continue to provide the tools necessary for generals, lieutenants, sergeants, and soldiers to accomplish the tasks they need in order to liberate their country.