Over Here, Over There


Latvia is an exemplar of the proposition that political and moral courage are not defined by size.

One of the so-called Baltic States, Latvia has a population of just under 2 million, about 80% of whom identify as Christian. By descent, Latvians evolved from early Indo-European tribes prominent in the region. Today, 63% identify as Latvian, while 24% claim Russian heritage.

The country is bounded to the east by Russia, to the west by the Baltic Sea and Lithuania, to the south by Belarus, and to the north by Estonia. Currently, it maintains memberships in NATO, the EU, and the UN.

In 1918, Latvia shed German empire rule but under a secret protocol in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of 1939, it was ceded to the Soviet Union as a sphere of influence and declared a Soviet Socialist Republic one year later. During WW II, the Latvian military largely supported Germany and participated in the deaths of 75,000 Jews as a component of German policy. USSR domination ended in 1991 when that empire disintegrated, restoring Latvia to independence.

This month the nation’s parliament voted $46 million in reparations to be made to Jewish community organizations for the loss of property in the war years. As the Ukraine crisis continues, Latvia announced the February start of joint exercises for its armed forces under command of the US military.


New Zealand recently joined the vanguard of opposition to faux religious orthodoxy that can coexist with secular values.

An island nation of just over 5 million in the southwest Pacific Ocean, New Zealand’s demographics record 48% of its population identifying as “no religion” and 37% as Christian. It is a member of the UN and several regional cooperative security organizations, such as ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, and US). It continues to participate in the Commonwealth of Nations, the successor to British colonial territories.

This month, the country’s parliament adopted legislation banning conversion therapy from homosexuality for any residents under the age of 18. Violators face imprisonment for up to five years. The legislation received broad public support and was carefully crafted to protect civil liberties. According to political leaders:

This new legislation isn’t about criminalizing open and respectful conversations about sexuality and gender. It’s been carefully designed to make sure that general expressions of religious beliefs or principles — as well as health practitioners or other people providing legitimate care and advice — won’t be penalized.


In 1962, Russia attempted to establish long-range missile sites in Cuba, invoking a tense tit-for-tat with the US in an attempt to take advantage of the nation island’s takeover by Fidel Castro. More recently, Russia has sought to develop an ally in Venezuela.

For about two decades, the US has been in conflict with the leadership in Venezuela, especially since a socialist, Hugo Chavez, was elected president in 1999. Under the administration of his successor, Nicolas Maduro, little has improved.

Both Presidents Obama and Trump levied sanctions on the country upon claims of widespread corruption and fraudulent elections. For two centuries, US interests in the Western Hemisphere have been guided by the Monroe Doctrine (1823), a principle of foreign policy espousing that any intervention by external powers in the politics of the Americas is potentially a hostile act against the US.

In 2019 the US, along with dozens of other nations, recognized Maduro’s opponent as Venezuela’s duly-elected leader. Over time, the actions taken against the South American country have been failures. During that period, Russia increased its holdings in oil in the country, while aiding Maduro to avoid economic sanctions.

Although President Biden continued to maintain the US posture toward Venezuela, the Ukraine invasion has altered that stance. Signs have appeared that the administration is willing to discuss the easing of sanctions, which would encourage Venezuela to increase its oil output as an offset to banning the import of Russian oil.

An easing of the strain has already witnessed the release of detainees in both nations as part of continuing talks. President Monroe would likely agree that it is time for a change.




Categories: International Events, international trade, Issues, National, tarrifs

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