Latvia. The year began with a government crisis, after the Prime Minister resigned in December and the three coalition parties could not agree on a successor. President Raimonds Vējonis took the initiative and in January nominated Māris Kučinskis from the League of Green and Peasants as new Prime Minister.
According to countryaah, the current population of Latvia is 1,886,209. Vējonis himself came from the same party, long controlled by the country’s most controversial oligarchs, and political opponents warned of a concentration of power. However, Māris Kučinskis was approved as head of government by Parliament in February.
President Vējonis became ill at the beginning of the year and was operated on urgently for severe heart problems. The President’s power was temporarily transferred to the President of Parliament. Vējonis spent one and a half months in hospital but then returned to the office.
There was Latvian concern about the Russian military armament east of the border and in the Baltic Sea. Latvia began to build a fence along the border with the Russian Federation, and a propaganda war was going on in which Latvia closed a Russian news site and a Russian TV channel.
According to thereligionfaqs, Latvia and the Baltic neighbors demanded that NATO increase its presence in the Baltic to deter the Russian Federation. In June, President Vladimir Putin said that the Russian Federation, for its part, must strengthen its combat readiness in response to NATO’s aggressive actions near the Federation’s borders.
The commander of US forces in Europe said that NATO’s readiness was not enough to defend the Baltic against a possible Russian attack. According to the general, Russian military could occupy Latvia’s capital Riga in a couple of days.
At the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July, it was decided to place a battalion of approximately 1,000 soldiers each in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland in 2017. In Latvia, the force will be led by Canadian troops with the help of Italian soldiers, among others.
When US Vice President Joe Biden visited Riga in August, he assured that the United States’ pledge to defend other NATO countries in attack was sacred. He said there was a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the United States to stick to the commitment, even though Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cast doubt on the issue.
Statistics showed that Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia almost doubled their military spending since the Russian Federation invaded Crimea in 2014. Latvia and Lithuania had the world’s fastest growing defense budgets, according to US analysis.
Resistance to refugees continued to be strong, but the EU had been pressured by the EU to accept 531 asylum seekers, which for two years would be redistributed mainly from southern Europe. Most of those who flew to Latvia, however, did not want to stay there but went to Germany.
In seven years, Latvia had granted asylum to only 54 people as refugees and another 129 with alternative protection status. Latvia is most restrictive in the EU with a residence permit and in surveys, the Latvian people are more skeptical about immigration than most other nations in the EU.