29 April, 2022
Dear Governor Dukakis, prof. Patterson, dear Ambassador Markarova, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Boston Global Forum made the right choice to award the 2022 World Leader for Peace and Security Prize to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
The people of Ukraine, under the leadership of President Zelenskyy, are fighting not only for their own land, but also on our behalf. The outcome of this war, which Russia has provoked, will have global consequences. I use the analogy of history as a volcano that erupts. Now is a moment when the lava is flowing and still hot. That is why every action and inaction in these weeks and months will shape the future landscape of Europe and beyond for many decades to come. That is why we have to get it right, we have to help Ukraine win this war and remain on the map of Europe.
Latvia is not surprised at the strength of Ukrainian resistance. Ukraine knows, we know what it means to live under Russian rule. Never again will we be wiped off the map of Europe!
There are short, medium un long-term tasks in order to help Ukraine.
The immediate is maximum possible support in military equipment. Latvia has already given equipment equal to one third of our defence budget since the war began. Here I commend the fullhearted support by the US under the leadership of President Biden.
The humanitarian crisis inside Ukraine and outside, given the numbers of refugees, is the greatest Europe has seen since World War II. The human losses and tragedies that Ukraine has experienced will be felt for decades to come. The least we can do is give refuge while homes and lives are rebuilt.
Sanctions against Russia need to be effective, wide-ranging and convincing! For far too long and too heavily Western countries have relied on Russian gas and oil. This is the moment to change our consumption patterns and switch to sustainable energy technologies.
A particular focus for me is support for Ukraine’s claims in the ICJ and the ICC. I also believe a special tribunal should be created, such as for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Those perpetrating war crimes – from Putin at the top to every individual so-to-say just fulfilling orders, will be held accountable, sooner of later. Evidence is being gathered from refugees in Latvia that will one day be useful in an international tribunal.
Ukraine will have massive rebuilding needs once the war ends, but even now it needs financial help to cover essential expenditures. We anticipate a new kind of Marshall plan for Ukraine. Within the EU there is widespread support that Ukraine should be granted EU candidate country status and its application fast-tracked.
Various other platforms can be used to extend a helping hand, including the Three Seas Initiative, which Latvia is currently chairing, and where the US is a long-standing partner, with bipartisan support. The infrastructure needs of Ukraine will be immense, we can look for ways to build better digital, transport and energy connections between Ukraine and the EU.
When meeting with President Zelenskyy in Kyiv on 13 April, the Presidents of the three Baltic states and Poland were there in solidarity with Ukraine, but behind this show of solidarity is also serious practical help for Ukraine. Our region, in turn, feels that kind of solid support from the US – President Biden and Vice-President Harris have several times met with us and reassured us that Article 5 of the NATO is ‘sacrosanct’. We have always advocated stronger Transatlantic links and now we truly feel the bond. Just like 100 years ago, when the US recognized the newly independent Baltic states de iure.
Now is the time to recognize our shared responsibility for saving Ukraine from Russia, and hopefully one day saving Russia from itself. Now is the time to give immediate help to Ukraine, to focus on our long-term sustainable energy needs, to build resilience against disinformation and defend media freedom, to know and understand the history of the past and of the history that is being made right now.