World War I devastated the territory of what became the state of Latvia, and on 18 November 1918, in Riga, the People’s Council of Latvia proclaimed the independence of the new country. A freely elected Constituent assembly convened in May 1920, and adopted a liberal constitution in February 1922.
On 5 October 1939, after the conclusion of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and the German invasion of Poland,Latvia was forced to accept a “mutual assistance” pact with the Soviet Union, which led eventually to the Soviet Union incorporating Latvia on 5 August 1940, as The Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic. On 21 June 1941 German troops attacked Soviet forces in Operation Barbarossa and Latvia was under the control of German forces by early July. Soviet troops reentered and ‘liberated’ Latvia from the Nazi German forces in October 1944. Latvia then remained under Soviet control until full independence was restored to The Republic of Latvia on 21 August 1991.
Latvia is now a member of the United Nations, the European Union, the Council of Europe, NATO, OECD, OSCE, IMF, and WTO. It is also a member of the Council of the Baltic Sea States and joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2014. Latvia’s foreign policy priorities include co-operation in the Baltic Sea region, European integration, active involvement in international organisations, contribution to European and transatlantic security and defence structures, participation in international civilian and military peacekeeping operations.
Latvia’s defence concept is based upon the Swedish-Finnish model of a rapid response force composed of a mobilisation base and a small group of career professionals. From 1 January 2007, Latvia switched to a professional fully contract-based army. Latvia also participates in international peacekeeping and security operations, and per capita, Latvia is one of the largest contributors to international military operations – including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the recent cooling of relations between the West and Putin’s Russia, Latvia, like her Baltic neighbours, has been reminded all too clearly about the threat of the bear to the East. Indeed, a recent article in ‘Foreign Policy’ presents a plausible scenario of ‘How World War III Could Begin In Latvia’…