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ALA Position Statement in Regard to US Pre-Election Campaign Rhetorics

July 22, 2016

In recent days, prominent politicians have called into question American commitments to NATO and the concept of international engagement.  The board of the American Latvian Association, representing 100,000 Americans of Latvian descent, strongly objects to these proposed policies.  

ALA supports a robust transatlantic relationship and unwavering American commitment to the NATO alliance.  We believe that American global engagement benefits us as Americans by ensuring peace and prosperity.   And engagement abroad helps those in foreign countries achieve and maintain political and economic freedom.  American leadership helped free millions from the chains of communism, including the citizens of Latvia, and gave them a new voice in the world. 

To be sure, we American taxpayers make a substantial investment in our military and ALA understands that the American commitment to international organizations may at times appear disproportionately high.   But it is impossible to quantify the resources and lives saved, and the wars and conflicts avoided, because of this preparedness and leadership.   A withdrawal from global engagement could create vacuums soon filled by non-democratic regimes that would operate counter to U.S. national-security interests.   

Further, America’s role in stabilizing the international order has benefited our citizens by growing world economic output, as measured by the IMF, from $5 trillion to $70 trillion in the 70 years since the end of World War II.   It is difficult to imagine Wall Street or Main Street benefiting from instability and isolation.  That is why we conclude that engagement is good for America and the global community.

The United States and Latvia have an enduring relationship that should be safeguarded and preserved.  In the 25 years since the formal restoration of Latvian-U.S. relations, the two countries have continued to cement their political, economic, and cultural relations, building on a foundation sealed by the U.S.’s brave and steadfast policy on non-recognition of the Soviet annexation of the Baltics. 

Since regaining its independence, Latvia has embraced democracy and the open market and its success and potential embodies the shared vision of a Europe whole and free.   The Latvian military has been a reliable partner by deploying troops to conflict zones such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia in direct support of U.S. and NATO-led missions and operations.  Latvia takes its security seriously and is increasing its military spending by 40% annually, despite still recovering from the global financial crisis of 2008, to meet the obligatory NATO threshold of 2% GDP by 2018.  Perhaps most importantly, it acts as NATO’s window to the East,  helping American policymakers understand the complex region.  

ALA has always been a non-partisan organization, reflecting the diversity of its membership.   ALA has maintained excellent working relationships with many presidential administrations and with both parties in Congress including Republicans such as George W. Bush and John McCain and Democrats Bill Clinton and Robert Byrd.   And we will continue to remain neutral in 2016 by not endorsing a presidential candidate but intend to educate the nominees about the Baltic States, their regional concerns, and the benefits of vibrant international relations.

Latvia respects and highly values its NATO alliance with the United States.  The Latvian people’s suffering through World War II and the Soviet occupation has taught them the value of freedom and the price to be paid to maintain that freedom. ALA encourages its members to reach out to the presidential nominees and share Latvia’s story and explain why continued American engagement benefits Americans and the world.

PÄ“teris Blumbergs
American Latvian Association