NATO Summit to Take Place in Riga
This week, beginning on November 28th the prestigious NATO Summit will take place in Latvia's capital city - the first NATO summit to be held on the territory of the former Soviet Union. One guest not on the list is Russian President Vladimir Putin - perhaps out of spite by the once Soviet-ruled Latvia? No, Russia is simply not a member of the treaty organization, though that hasn't stopped rumours that the President might crash the party anyway. Significantly, no Russian president has visited any of the three Baltic states since Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania broke away from Soviet rule in 1991. After all three joined NATO and the EU in 2004, relations have been sketchy at best.
But the summit itself is not the news to most Latvians. This is a chance to show Europe - and the world - just how far the country has come in its fifteen years of independence from the Soviet Union. The summit, the Latvians believe, is their chance to show the world who they are. More importantly, they see membership in the EU and NATO as a sign that they're here to stay. NATO membership means allies and security - powerful allies who will come to their aid should anyone ever try to invade.
For many Latvians, holding the NATO summit in Riga has more than symbolic value. It means the city, and the country, is ready to face a new reality: that of everyday living, progress, and security.