President Donald Trump speaks at a news conference with leaders of Baltic states in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, April 3, 2018. Trump is pointing to a 50 percent job approval rating that may not fully comport with reality. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
While the Russians seem to have shrugged off President Trump’s decision to sell anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, now they are upset. On April 3, President Trump met with the presidents of the three Baltic republics, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. High on the agenda were security concerns about Russia. In particular, Latvia is concerned that Russia might set off a Ukraine-like separatist movement. This is because Latvia is abandoning bilingual Latvian-Russian education and by 2021 all classes will be taught exclusively in Latvian. Russian, which has styled itself the protector of Russian minorities, has had a cow.
Last month the Russian foreign ministry called the Latvian reform “odious” and “part of the discriminatory policy of the forceful assimilation of Russian-speaking people that has been conducted for the past 25 years”.
The Latvian government says ethnic minorities will still be able to study their own cultures and learn in their mother tongue in primary school. The Russian minority is much larger than Latvia’s other minorities, such as the Poles.
Around 300,000 Russian-speakers, or 13% of Latvia’s population, are so-called “non-citizens”. Fluency in Latvian is among the requirements for Latvian citizenship.
In Ukraine in 2014 Russian-speakers’ fears that their language rights were at risk fuelled the ethnic conflict, in which Russia annexed Crimea and helped insurgents in the Donbass region.
As part of that meeting, President Trump agreed to arms sales to those three countries:
The United States plans to provide nearly $100 million for procurement of large-caliber ammunition and over $70 million in training and equipping programs to the Baltics to build the capacity of the national military or national-level security forces of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Now the Russians have decided that Trump is just selling weapons to make a quick buck:
Supplies of US weapons to Europe, including to the Baltic States, pursue above all the commercial aims, and don’t contribute to the strengthening of global and European security, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing on Wednesday.
She said the US president is in no small measure a business person. “Well, a businessman, selling everything,” she noted. “As for supplies of weapons and global security, the US is far away. This is the European continent, and American-made weapons are supplied with the money of Europeans,” she added.
“America makes profit and money, and what to Europeans get? Weapons? What for?” Zakharova asked.
“On the one hand, weapons are supplied, and on the other – parties are constantly set against each other, in particular European countries,” she stressed. “What can it lead to? History has different answers to this question,” the diplomat said.
That really isn’t how foreign military sales work, but whatever.
What the response shows is that Trump’s aide to the Baltic states is upsetting in a way that selling anti-tank missiles to Ukraine was not. This tips their hand that the Latvians have a legitimate security concern
For a Russian stooge, President Trump is doing a good job of making them angry. Perhaps we’ll see the kompromat that Louise Mensch, John Schindler, Adam Schiff, and the rest of the anti-Trump nutters have been promising for the last year.