Wall Street Journal on March 19, 2015, reported on Linas Linkevicius, Lithuania’s…foreign minister, [explaining that]:“We can’t trust a single word of the Russian leadership,”… “It’s worthless.” As for Moscow’s pledges to help end the violence in Ukraine—“Statements are worthless.” The European Union, he suggested, was removed from “reality.” Excerpts below:
[He]captured the role that Lithuania, a country of three million people the size of West Virginia, is carving for itself in the Ukraine crisis. Its government has become Russia’s bluntest critic, reacting with raw anger while others use the delicate language of diplomacy. Often, it provokes a Russian response to match.
It isn’t just rhetoric. Lithuania acknowledges giving arms to Ukraine, even as EU officials balk at doing so. Citing Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine, it recently announced a new military draft. It published a citizens’ survival manual on what do if Russia invades.
It is seeking to ban unauthorized uniforms on its turf to frustrate potential Russian proxy forces. And it is helping lead an EU effort to counter Moscow propaganda directed toward Russian-speaking populations in the Baltic countries and elsewhere.
“We speak the language of reality. We have to speak this language because others will not,” said Petras Austrevicius, a Lithuanian member of the European Parliament. Some European leaders, he said, cling to an outdated vision of Moscow as a partner: “The EU is still stuck in its former views of Russia.”
Lithuania’s stance will be on display again this week when President Dalia Grybauskaite comes to Brussels for an EU summit that will focus in part on whether to extend sanctions against Russia until year’s end.
When Ms. Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” last November, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said her comment “surpassed even the most extremist statements coming from radical nationalists in Kiev.”
Ms. Grybauskaite said in a written response to emailed questions that a forceful reaction to Russia was necessary because the Kremlin was testing Europe and would push ahead if not halted. “Putin will go as far as our hesitation and remaining naiveté let him,” she said. “If the Kremlin’s aggression is not stopped in Ukraine, it will reach our—NATO’s—borders.”
She added, “It is our obligation to help Ukraine by all necessary means.”
Lithuania is beefing up its armed forces, Ms. Grybauskaite said, because it isn’t unthinkable that they would have to be used. “We are doing everything to make sure that, if necessary, we will be able to defend ourselves,” she said.
As small, Westernized countries on Russia’s flank, the Baltic nations have been especially spooked by Moscow’s aggressiveness. All have significant Russian-speaking populations, and they fear Moscow will use that as a pretext to provoke unrest.
That worry has driven the Baltics to embrace the West. They haven’t only joined the EU, but also adopted the euro and accepted some of Europe’s most stringent austerity measures to battle economic crises. As North Atlantic Treaty Organization members for little more than a decade, the republics have pledged to meet the alliance’s military spending goals and demanded NATO outposts on their soil.
Lithuania’s leaders make no apology for their philosophy that speaking loudly, not keeping quiet, is the most effective way to discourage a bully. That approach shows up most strikingly in Lithuania’s supplying, almost alone among Western countries, Kiev with unspecified armaments.
Mocking the notion that the some in the West are “considering” such shipments, Mr. Linkevicius told reporters recently, “The other side are not ‘considering’—they are already delivering sophisticated and heavy weapons.”
In a tweet before a European security conference in Munich in February, Mr. Linkevicius compared Russia to Nazi Germany, suggesting European nations were engaging in a feckless appeasement.
“ ‘Sudetenland’ in 1938 was supposed to appease aggressor,” Mr. Linkevicius tweeted. “We know the results. Why these thoughts arising in time of Munich conference 2015?”