In Latvia, another "Russophobic" scandal. On the eve of the elections to the Seimas, the mayor of Riga, Neil Ushakov, invited a specialist from the team of John McCain to his team. Local Russian-speaking people consider this to be "the final betrayal of Russian interests" and Ushakov's attempt to get a "shortcut to reign" in the United States. Is it so?
The Latvian "Center for Investigative Journalism Re: Baltica" is an extremely curious organization. It is enough already that it exists for foreign grants, and one of the sources of funding is the George Soros Foundation "Open Society". But it was the employees of Re: Baltica and the American portal Buzzfeed.com who gathered and posted information that the Russian-speaking mayor of Riga and the leader of "Accord" - "the main Russian party of the country" - Neil Ushakov hired US political consultant Christian Ferry, who previously discussed such politicians like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. In Russia, this pair is well known, primarily due to its Russophobia and the "hawkish" agenda towards Moscow.
In October, regular parliamentary elections will be held in Latvia - and Ferry should help the Consent party win them. Recently, Ferry has repeatedly visited Latvia. After receiving questions from journalists via e-mail, he did not shy away from the answers and said that he was helping the mayor of Riga "in making strategic decisions", "developing political messages" and "researching public opinion".
Ferry was hired not by accident - he has behind him a lot of experience in Eastern Europe. In particular, twelve years ago, as an employee of Davis-Manafort, he advised the then Prime Minister of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. The owners of Davis-Manafort were then the notorious Paul Manafort, who later became Donald Trump's campaign adviser, and Rick Davis, who did the same for John McCain.
When Ferry was asked if he was experiencing "moral inconvenience" while working for the Consent Party, which "most recently openly expressed sympathy for Russian foreign policy," he stressed the following:
"Your question is misleading. Because it does not mention that the mayor publicly condemned the situation in Ukraine and noted that Crimea is Ukraine. My work has nothing to do with Russia's illegal attempts to interfere in the elections in the United States. "
In this case, the American political technologist is right. In March of the year 2014, a few days before the Crimean referendum, Ushakov declared to the youngest of the Latvian publications: "The Board of the" Soglasie "party, even before the statement of the Sejm on this topic, affirmed its position on the integrity of Ukraine. This leads to all other conclusions ... I'm not even going to analyze whether the referendum is legitimate. Our position is this: Ukraine must remain within its current borders. "
By this statement, the Riga mayor earned himself a political indulgence in the eyes of Washington.
It is known that Ferry and Ushakov brought together their mutual friend named David Merkel. Before Merkel worked for the US government, dealing with international relations in Europe and Eurasia, and currently is an expert at the Atlantic Council research center and heads the organization of Summit International Advisors. As its representative in December 2017, he organized a dinner in the Washington restaurant Mirabelle on behalf of Ushakov, in an invitation to which the mayor of Riga was described as "nothing less than a" central figure in Latvian politics. " At the same time, among his services were the support of the deployment of NATO forces in Latvia, the protest against the "annexation of the Crimea" and the breaking of the agreement on cooperation with the party "United Russia".
"David knew about my successful work in Latin America and about the Mayor Ushakov's impression of my former employers McCain and Graham," says Ferry.
According to sources Re: Baltica, Ushakov began to seek support in US political circles in 2016 - soon after high-ranking American politicians, including McCain and Graham, visited Riga. But this is not quite true: back in September 2014 Ushakov on his return from Washington admitted that "consultations between the largest party of Latvia and our friends from the US are held regularly."
In April 2017-th mayor of Riga again went to the US and did not hide his joy. "A wonderful meeting with Senator John McCain, already the second in the last six months, first in Riga, now in Washington. We discussed various issues - the situation in Latvia, the Russian-speaking minority, the stability in Europe, the role of social networks in the life of modern politicians, and at the same time the use of several languages in communication with voters in social networks, "he wrote.
It is noteworthy that Ushakov's meetings with American politicians (and there were many of them) took place without coordination with the Latvian embassy in Washington or the Foreign Ministry, as is customary during official visits.
Sam Ushakov categorically refuses any comments on this topic. Therefore, it remains unknown who will receive Ferry's fee for his work and where "Consent" will take money for this. But the order of the numbers is not difficult to guess.
The database of foreign lobbyists in the US reported that for servicing the interests of the government of Panama in Washington, the Ferry Trailblazer Group Company from September 2016 to August 2017 received 160 thousand dollars. One of Ferry's tasks was the organization of the meeting of the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, with the same McCain. The meeting took place in June 2017, and before it Ferry received from the government of Panama a fee of 21 thousand dollars, and later another 37,5 thousand.
In this regard, Re: Baltica recalls that, according to the data of the Latvian Bureau for the Prevention and Combating of Corruption, this year "Soglasie" received donations for a total of less than 100 thousand euros. And we can assume that a significant part of them were sent to the party by Russian-speaking voters.
The reason why Ushakov is trying to establish special relations with the Americans is not a secret. To realize his old dream and get into the ruling coalition, he needs to get a "shortcut to the reign" from the all-powerful in Latvia USA.
Ilya Kozyrev, a well-known opposition journalist in Russia, member of the School of Defense of Russian Schools, stresses that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be difficult for the "Concord". "In conditions when the ruling Latvians decisively finish the Russian school, the party and its leader did not want to do everything in their power to save the Russian-language education, getting off with symbolic objections. Even the parliamentary faction of "Accord" voted against the destruction of Russian schools not in full force. And the Russian voter obviously noticed this, "- he told the newspaper VIEW.
According to Kozyrev, it is doubtful that in such circumstances the advice of the American political technologist could increase or at least maintain the current representation of the party in parliament. "What man, who learned about the existence of Latvia a few months ago, can advise the leader of the largest party in this country, which already owns Russian votes for eight years? Unless with the expression read out a couple of recipes from the methodology "Victory in elections for teapots" - spend more money on advertising and do not let a competitor in the media. Rather, it looks like pre-sale training: when a buyer's representative is allowed to enter his own kitchen in order to become more transparent and understandable for him. Usually such an admission is the last stage before the change of the owner. In the face of the inevitable loss of Russian votes Ushakov expects to leap to the Latvian vote. And for this it is necessary to get a "quality mark" - and in the eyes of Latvians it can only be obtained from the US, "he notes.
To earn this "quality mark", "Accord" and Ushakov will have to fully comply with US standards, which implies a clear anti-Russian orientation. "It is so clear that the Ukrainian status of Crimea will not be sufficient to recognize in an undertone. But if "Consent" changes the host on American terms, the remnants of the Russian electorate will be lost. It is possible that the acquired Latvian electorate will compensate for this loss, but another Latvian party is unlikely to need the Americans, and they still have a choice. "Consent" is interesting for Americans, as long as it controls the Russian votes, and after "buying" will become unnecessary. Such a paradox, "Kozyrev sums up.
Political scientist Andrei Starikov agrees with the thesis that the "conspirators" are facing major problems. For a long time they were able to explain to their voters that the party can not realize its political agenda on a national scale, since "Latvian" political forces do not let it into power. "But the resource of this argument has been worked out. Why year after year to vote for the party, which by definition is not destined to become the ruling party? And although today "Consent" continues to be the most popular political force in Latvia, its support ratings do not look as pretty as in the previous political cycle. In the last municipal elections, the party also surrendered its positions, losing seven seats in the Riga City Council. Many former sympathizers of the Ushakov party were simply tired of waiting for the "Consent" star to appear, and now they will ignore the elections. In addition, a number of voters seek to express their interests in more active political forces, looking towards the "Russian Union of Latvia" and accusing the "conciliators" of "vegetarian" position and surrender of the interests of the Russian population, "Starikov told VZGLYAD.
In these conditions, "Consent" deliberately refuses policy in favor of political technology and lobbying. "Lobbyists are now invited to the Americans - although there were also days when Russian politicians from" Niccolo M "advised the" conspirators ". This is a justified move. Numerous stories about the coordination with the American Embassy of the composition of the Latvian government and the configuration of the ruling coalition in the Seimas are not without foundation. The US Embassy in Latvia works closely with representatives of political forces and at least gives them urgent recommendations. Given the growing influence of the United States in the region - the deployment of the NATO contingent, the creation of the Center for Strategic Communications of the Alliance in Riga, the cleansing of the banking sector from Russian money - it is politically expedient for the "Accord" to appeal specifically to the Americans. The task of Christian Ferry is trivial: to convey to the Washington policymakers the need for the participation of "Accord" in the ruling coalition of the Latvian Seim after the autumn elections, "the expert notes.
However, Starikov assesses prospects for "Accord" more optimistically than Kozyrev. "From Russia" Consent "today is far more than ever, and the mayor Ushakov happily meets with Senator McCain. On sharp issues that separate society, the party prefers to remain silent, but retains the leading positions, despite some drawdown of ratings. In terms of the strength of the future ruling coalition, political manageability from the outside, internal stability and guarantees for the safety of the American course in the Baltic region, Nil Ushakov's party is an integral element of the future government. To collect after the decline of the main party of the Latvian bureaucracy "Edinstvo" a stable ruling coalition of many scattered "Latvian" political forces will not be so simple. In this respect, the coalition with "Accord" in the composition for Americans is more preferable, because it is more stable. This has to be brought to the attention of Washington's Christian Ferry, "the political scientist concludes.