Latvian Christians doubt NATO guarantee

Just weeks after the Latvian government announced new security measures, including the reintroduction of conscription, Catholic leaders have expressed concerns about possible Russian aggression.

Speaking on behalf of Latvia’s bishops’ conference, Msgr Paul Klavins said NATO forces have given Latvians a “sense of greater protection” but added that many doubt how NATO’s collective defence guarantee would “play out in reality”.

In the meantime, he said, Catholic officials are trying to avoid getting embroiled in ideological conflicts. 

“Latvia is home to a large Russian population and there are Russian-speakers in the Catholic Church,” he said. “We're sensitive to historical animosities here, which could be reignited and used politically. It would be easy and dangerous for us to become involved in this ideological warfare – so our bishops have tried to stay calm and avoid taking sides.”

Describing it as a “historical reality” that Latvia must live with Russia as a neighbour, Msgr Klavins said it was possible to do this “in a friendly, peaceful way”.