A Time for Unity and Reckoning
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at work in the center of Washington DC, about 3 miles from the Pentagon where at 9:37 a passenger jet commandeered by Al Qaeda terrorists crashed into the building, killing all 59 civilians on board the plane and 150 innocents on the ground. I walked home that day and could see the plumes of black smoke streaming from the Pentagon the entire way. But the next day we returned to work. The United States was not going to shut down just because of this threat and we took a “business as usual” attitude.
I imagine many Latvians currently feel as if they are almost under attack themselves since your peaceful, nearby neighbors in Ukraine have been attacked. Plumes of black smoke are in your deep horizon.
But just like the Americans did over 20 years ago, I urge the government, businesses and people of Latvia to continue to live your lives with a “business as usual” motto. Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine should not impact your everyday lives of attending school, organizing conferences, or simply showing up at work and doing your jobs.
Latvia is a member of NATO and you are secure. The defense guarantees of NATO Article 5 are well known to everyone and compliance has been reassured by numerous world leaders including Stoltenberg and Biden. There is no wavering on this issue.
Demonstrations have been organized in world wide support of Ukraine, and Latvian diaspora groups and our members are actively participating in them. We are also writing letters and phoning our elected representatives to make sure they know about our concern.
Latvians should be proud that international leaders and the community of nations have quickly rallied to their defense. This reflects Latvia’s own commitment to international order and institutions, your investment in homeland defense and meeting NATO spending targets, and your good hearts as people who love culture, sports, and the environment.
Let’s come together. Let this be a moment to collectively feel our patriotism both among those living in Latvia and the people I represent, the diaspora who identify as Latvians, whose thoughts are with Latvia and who support it.
While we are experiencing this feeling of unity, patriotism, and commitment to collective defense, for others this can also be a moment of reckoning. After the end of World War II, Germans had a reckoning over their role in causing that horrific international conflict. Through the process of facing the truth and seeking forgiveness, paying reparations, and building monuments to victims, the Germans were able to move on and once again become a leading nation in the world.
Unfortunately, Russia has never had a post-Soviet reckoning. It still lives in the past with a delusional leader who speaks with outdated terms about fascists and spheres of influence. Russia has never apologized or paid reparations to the victims of the gulags or the countries it illegally occupied. It has not built any monuments for atonement. In fact, paradoxically, in Riga, we have just the opposite – a still standing monument in Uzvaras laukums celebrating the Soviet era.
It is time that Russia had its reckoning. It is time to put Putin in his place and demand that he recognize a new world order built on peace and prosperity. It’s also probably time for the Uzvaras monument to come down.
To our friends in Latvia, PBLA and its membership is helping you from abroad. We are proud to call ourselves Latvians and our support is resolute. You are not alone.