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Toni Schönfelder
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Toni Schönfelder
A lifetime of innovation

Russia Makes me Nervous-Latvias Vike-Freiberga BERLIN, May 28, 2000 President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said on Saturday that instability in Russia made her nervous and meant that she could never rule out the prospect of another Russian occupation. Asked in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel if she could see the Russian army occupying her small Baltic country again, Vike-Freiberga said it was not beyond the realms of the imagination. "Russia is extremely unpredictable. The country is not very stable. Its democratic basis is questionable. There is not as much economic security as one might wish. We are not saying Russia will do this or do that. But the simple fact of its unpredictability makes me afraid," she said. The Latvian president angered the Russians earlier this month when she accused Moscow in an interview of harking back to the Cold War because of statements Russia made about Latvias bid to join NATO. Vike-Freiberga said in the interview that relations between Latvia, which celebrated 10 years of independence this month, and Russia under President Vladimir Putin had not improved as much as she had hoped. "We have just had another attack on our embassy in Moscow. That is not a sign of peaceful behavior. We hope that the Russian government will condemn this attack and start an investigation," she said. Vandals, apparently reacting to allegations of mistreatment of Russian nationals in Latvia, have several times daubed the Moscow embassy with paint and broken windows. About one-third of Latvias 2.5 million people are ethnic Russians, most of whom came there during its 50 years as a reluctant Soviet republic. "Russia has to come to terms with the fact that we are no longer a Soviet republic. Latvia is a sovereign state," Vike-Freiberga said. She said Latvia was keen to join both NATO and the European Union. "We want both. If you ask me if Id rather cut off my right arm or my left arm, Id say I want to keep both of them." She said she was optimistic that Latvias bid for NATO membership would be successful. "I have just spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and and she welcomed our joining NATO enthusiastically, provided we make our contribution and invest in our defence forces," Vike-Freiberga said.

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