Latvian President Egils Levits has warned fellow Europeans not to pursue the “politics of capitulation” in Ukraine, as Kyiv’s counter-attacks tear gaps in Russia’s front lines.
Levits spoke at the Yalta European Strategy summit—organized by the Victor Pinchuk Foundation—in Kyiv on Friday, telling attendees that Europe’s painful winter is “the price of our freedom.”
Latvia, along with its fellow Baltic nations including Poland, has been at the forefront of the European response to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. The region’s historical trauma of Soviet occupation means its nations have traditionally been more Russo-skeptic than Western European allies.
Levits and his fellow regional leaders are seeking to pre-empt any cracks in the European front on Ukraine, as some call for the relaxation of sanctions on Russia to soften looming energy and cost of living crises across the continent.
“I think that our society has no real choice,” Levits said. “We should support Ukraine, and also we should do our part in order to overcome this situation. The energy prices and so on, it’s our common burden—caused by Russia—but it is the price of our freedom. It’s our contribution to the freedom of Ukraine.”
“The sanctions are effective, long-term effective, and we can already see some impacts of the sanctions on the Russian economy,” the president said. “These impacts will increase.”
Ukrainians—most of whom support the effort to liberate Russian-occupied territories—are concerned that Franco-German appeals for peace represent a veiled push for Ukraine to make concessions to Moscow.
For many, this echoes the European response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and partial occupation of Donbas in 2014, which sowed the seeds for the ongoing invasion.
“It is not for us to push Ukraine to some kind of negotiations, to some kind of compromise, because a sustainable peace can be achieved only on the basis of internationally recognized values, on the basis of international law,” Levits said.
He added: “I would not support so-called ‘realpolitik’; that means the politics of capitulation, the politics of being defeated. Because it does not lead to peace, to real peace.
“Here the situation is very clear, there is one aggressor and one victim. I know that in Europe, there are some confused people—a smaller part of the population—who do not know who is the aggressor and who is the victim. I think their moral compass is not functioning.
“But it’s clear that the big majority is supporting European values, our democratic system. And then our only duty is very simple: to support Ukraine. This is what we can do. Support in terms of military support—it’s the most urgent need, we should give Ukraine all that Ukraine needs in order to restore its sovereignty.”
Ukraine’s battlefield exploits contrast with its economic troubles. The state budget deficit may reach $50 billion this year, while inflation is above 20 percent and unemployment could be as high as 30 percent. Post-war reconstruction could cost as much as $350 billion.
The EU has agreed a new financial assistance package worth more than $5 billion, but Levits said in Kyiv that the bloc must commit to long-term aid and do more to help Kyiv’s membership ambitions.
Ukraine was awarded EU candidate status in June. Formal membership talks will begin once Ukraine fulfils certain conditions, including reforms on corruption and the rule of law. The European Commission is due to review Kyiv’s progress at the end of this year, but Levits said Friday that Latvia and Poland would push for talks sooner.
“Most of the conditions have been fulfilled,” Levits said. “Latvia and Poland, we have spoken about that today. We will push for starting negotiations with Ukraine, because I’m convinced that after the war, after the victory of Ukraine, Ukraine will be one of the stronger European nations politically.”