First Russia came for Ukraine, and now it may well be coming for the Baltics. Konstantin Dolgov — Russia’s foreign minister on issues of human rights, democracy, and rule of law — voiced concern Saturday over the treatment of Russian citizens in the Baltic states. Consider that a warning.
According to the text of a speech published on the Russian foreign ministry’s website (and evidently given at the Regional Conference of Russian Compatriots of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia in Riga), the “protection of the rights and lawful interests of our compatriots abroad is one of the prioritized actions” of the foreign ministry. The speech’s inflammatory language echoed the precursors of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, citing concerns for the well-being and rights of Russians in the territory.
Dolgov linked alleged anti-Russian sentiment with a rise in “xenophobic and neo-Nazi sentiment” in Europe, and accused the European Union of ignoring its own human-rights abuses in favor of focusing on third parties. Then he zeroed in on the neighboring countries.
“Dear friends!” Dolgov announced. “We all know full well the real extent of problems with human rights and rule of law faced by our compatriots in the Baltic countries. This topic is constantly the focus of attention and hard work of the Russian foreign ministry.” He pointed to “mass statelessness” of Russians in the Baltics and alleged attempts to curtail the Russian language in Baltic countries, as further evidence of Russophobic sentiment.
These overt provocations come after Russia kidnapped an Estonian spy earlier in September. The two countries dispute whether the agent was on the Russian or Estonian side of the border when he was taken by Russian forces. And that incident occurred just days after Obama promised to defend the “territorial integrity of every single ally” in NATO. (Of course, the administration can also just refuse to call Russian aggression on the Baltics an “invasion,” just like it did with Ukraine.)
Not that it’s done on the Crimea front, either. Russia is sending more troops to Crimea, allegedly owing to the increased presence of NATO forces in the region.
And in case you’re wondering who’s up next, there’s a popular Russian song to guide you. “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, this is my country,” sings Putin darling Oleg Gazmanov in “Made in the Soviet Union.” The song continues: “Kazakhstan and the Caucasus, and the Baltics too!”
Watch out, Brooklyn: You might be next.