Events after the terrorist attacks of 11 September strengthened the logic of the reunification of Europe, confirming that Latvia and other Central European countries have made the right choice. Russia, too, must come to understand that resolving border issues with its neighboring countries as quickly as possible is fully in line with its national interests, including in the area of the threat of terrorism.
Central Europe announces war on terrorism
On 6 November 2001, Central and Eastern European countries - those which have suffered so much at the hands of totalitarian regimes and inhuman ideologies - came together in Warsaw to announce their concerted participation in the international coalition to fight against terrorism. Presidents from 17 countries looked at priority aspects of cooperation, emphasizing that the new challenges mean that we must take advantage of every opportunity to promote the consolidation of democratic countries and to deepen EU and NATO integration.
The 11 September attacks in New York and Washington provided a very brutal demonstration of the threat which global civilization faces at the hands of international terrorism. There is no doubt any more that no country and no nation is protected against the threat of terrorism. The activities of the suicidal terrorists made it clear how widely scattered and hard to monitor is the international network of criminal organizations which do not recognize national boundaries and which cover almost all of the continents of the world. The fanatical warriors of Al Qaeda confirmed that they think nothing of their own lives and those of others, and they have a fearsome imagination when it comes to selecting the instruments of death.
It is also true that the events of the last several months have firmed up the idea that the fight against this pestilence is not something which is the duty only of America, the nuclear powers or the major regional powers. These tragic events encouraged all democratic countries and the global community to come together in the fight against terrorism, to strengthen links of cooperation with allies, partners and friends. Latvia believes that the Warsaw forum was an important event in terms of foreign policy and practical action.
First of all, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe demonstrated that they stand with their allies in the EU and NATO. They can take action, and they are not passive consumers of security. This was the first summit meeting in Central and Eastern Europe which brought together representatives from the whole region; from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea and the Adriatic. Some of the delegates came from countries that have been torn asunder by violence - Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Moldova. Far more important than the formal presence of the delegates, however, was the readiness of each and every participant to speak in one voice and to organize future actions. The presidents of the region’s countries admitted that our nations border several regions of instability, and our countries have a special responsibility for peace and stability in the world. The most important mission, according to countries in our region, is to ensure close cooperation among customs, financial control, border guard and immigration services. It is of key importance to ensure a reciprocal exchange of information among security institutions, and there must be an ongoing fight against manifestations of xenophobia, racism and intolerance. The action plan that was adopted at the Warsaw conference speaks to cooperation among the relevant institutions in all of these areas.
Second, the global fight against terrorism means that cooperation among international organizations and specific regions is coming to the fore. The conference attracted considerable interest in neighboring countries. High-standing observers from Russia, Belarus and Turkey attracted particular attention at Warsaw. Now that they face the dangers of new challenges, these countries have a unique opportunity to review their reticent attitude toward cooperation with European and Transatlantic institutions. Participants at the Warsaw conference unanimously congratulated Russia for its readiness to become actively involved in the international coalition for the fight against terrorism. An effective battle against terrorism is closely linked to the fight against illegal migration and weapons smuggling, as well as to strict controls over the export and import of strategic resources. For this reason, it would be quite logical for Russia to comprehend the fact that signing of border agreements with the Baltic and other neighbouring countries as quickly as possible would fully serve its national interests, including in the area of the fight against the threat of terrorism.
Third, the events after 11 September confirmed that Latvia and other Central European countries have made the right strategic choice. NATO confirmed that it is the only international organization which can care for collective security and lead a global coalition against terrorism. NATO reacted with lightning speed to the attacks against New York and Washington. The burden of the international battle at this time rests on the shoulders of NATO’s founders - the United States and Great Britain. Military support was also signaled by Germany, France, Italy and the new NATO member states Poland and the Czech Republic. The tragic events of recent months have only served to strengthen the logic of the reunification of Europe. Integration and cooperation are the best way to achieve peace, welfare and stability in Europe. It is not unimportant that in their Warsaw declaration, the leaders of Central and Eastern Europe stressed that “rapid enlargement of the European Union and NATO will promote the international fight against terrorism.” In my view, this is an important reminder of the fact that we must not allow terrorists to destroy the enlargement plans of the EU and NATO in 2002.