NATO foreign ministers in Riga are unlikely to signal that the West will not fall for Putin's bait
Will such a signal be sent to Putin? With a high probability, no.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has already said that NATO does not want to go to war,
but... what follows this seemingly obvious reservation is irrelevant, because the signal has already been sent. The main thing is that it coincides with the signal the Kremlin wants to hear, but as we know, the truth is the satisfactory version. If Putin wants to hear that NATO does not want to go to war, and this is what the top NATO official says, then Putin has one thought in his head: NATO will do anything to find an excuse in any crisis situation not to fight, even when it should be doing so according to all the unwritten rules of international relations.
In addition, another, unfortunately similar, signal was given to Putin. The NATO ministerial meeting is being held under a strict dress code - a face mask is compulsory in public places. Even the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, wore a face mask when he climbed down the airstairs and so did his greeters. In a snowstorm. In the fresh air. What does Putin see when he looks at this? Not "ironclad unity" and unwavering determination. Putin sees blatant hypocrisy and ostentation. That is how practically all post-Soviet people see it, regardless of the real reasons why the West has agreed to this dress code.
At one time, when Latvia and the other Baltic States joined NATO, we had the naive expectation that, knowing well the traditions of Russia, the peculiarities of the thinking of the leaders there and being fluent in Russian, our contribution to NATO would be highly qualified Russian expertise. Who among the NATO countries knows Russia better than we who have lived under its occupation for half a century? But, as is often the case in quite mundane matters, nobody really needed our "expertise", because everybody feels smart. Especially if you are big and powerful in your own eyes (like most big European countries).
On Monday, Stoltenberg repeated his usual mantra that the Alliance must show unity. This would then be the main bulwark against Russia attacking a NATO member. Dr Kārlis Bukovskis, Deputy Director of the Latvian Institute of International Affairs, was even more direct: "The central task of NATO is to maintain an ironclad unity and determination - a signal that is expected in all countries and is the fundamental point of NATO."
Will such unity be demonstrated? Formally perhaps, but Putin is not interested in formalities. He is interested in nuances. Did the NATO Member States demonstrate unity in the hybrid war "dress rehearsal" that has just taken place, which was conducted like a military exercise by Putin's ideological brother, Lukashenko? Sadly, no. In the end, the West achieved something resembling unity, but after several months of carping and endless accusations against Poland.
It is no secret that the Kremlin's fifth column in Europe - the various radicals on the left - have a much more important objective in forcing Poland and other countries that have not yet submitted to their doctrine than in standing firm against Putin's imperial policies. Putin is far away, Putin is uninfluential and he responds to the rhetoric of the left with derision. Therefore, we must hit those of our own people who can, may and should be hit. In this particular case, Poland, but they may just as well hit us at a critical moment, because to the Western left we are in any case the "bad guys" who (in their eyes) cling to their archaic, patriarchal, cisgender and white supremacist principles.
Speaking to journalists, the NATO Secretary General refrained from commenting on what Russia's tactics against Europe might be. It may be that he really does not know, but it's more likely that he does not want to know, because these tactics are extremely simple, clearly seen, but difficult for the West to accept, because admitting this would also require a change in their own vision, which they do not want to change in any way.
It is not even about energy, hydrocarbons and comprehensive economic cooperation, which also play an important role in Russian-Western relations (especially in Europe). It is about more subtle things. Ideological. The West is full of useful leftist idiots who, for their own narrow ideological reasons, are prepared to undermine Western unity over any ideologically controversial issue.
Let us see how this looks in practice. Let us recall the well-known observation that generals always prepare for the previous war. We know how Germany started the war on September 1, 1939, and Russia against Finland on November 30 the same year. With the provocations of Gleiwitz and Mainila respectively. So our strategists are preparing for some kind of provocation in a notional Narva or Daugavpils. But today, provocations of this type do not work, or rather are not enough, because the threshold of public acceptance has changed significantly.
In 1939, these provocations were only needed as a pretext to somehow justify oneself in the eyes of one's own people. Today, pretexts are not enough. It takes a serious reason for broad, influential sections of society in the enemy camp to start doubting the very fact of aggression, to question the victim's right to resist (the blame is his own because of his own homo/xeno and other phobias) and to be at a loss as to which side to really take. Roughly the same as in the Polish/Belarusian stand-off. Almost all the world's left media, from The Guardian to CNN and MSNBC, took very ambiguous positions, almost showing more solidarity with Belarus than with Poland.
The Kremlin's ideological enablers of potential aggression must see their task very clearly. The potential victim must be positioned as fascist, nationalist and right-wing. How to achieve these objectives? Quite simple - just follow the activities of agents of influence such as Leonid Ragozin, Re:Baltica, Ir, and certain employees of the LTV1 news service, and everything will become clear. Latvia must be shown as a country that does not represent Western "values" (in quotation marks, because in this case by values is meant the left-wing radicals' understanding of what the West should be), and is inhabited by vile, backward people for whom it is not worth shedding a drop of "real" (that is, leftist) Western blood.
If NATO, with Stoltenberg at its head, wanted to send a clear signal to Putin about NATO unity, then it would be these useful idiots in the Western media and political class who should be talked about more. It should be regularly reaffirmed at various levels that no ideological differences will stand in the way of NATO unity. So the Kremlin would not even hope that it will be successful in carrying out cunning provocations under the guise of human rights, humanism and other high ideals. NATO and the West as a whole will not fall for such blatant bait.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that NATO would be able to agree on such a thing because it is quite clear: they easily will fall for it. With no reservations. They may even have already, and it is up to us, including Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs, to point this out to them.