Lithuania’s main daily urges policymakers to boost country’s national security
I would like to present you with the editorial from the largest Lithuania’s daily Lietuvos Rytas August 28. If anyone would like to accuse the daily of Russo phobia I would like to remind you that this article appeared before the Finish foreign minister expressed his wish for Finland to join NATO. The Swedes are also opened a discussion on further strengthening their relationship with this military alliance. Could you accuse Finland and in this case Sweden of unfounded phobias? Here we go…
The images of Russian tanks rolling through Lithuania are a thing of the past. Fifteen years ago, on 31 August, the last Russian soldier left Lithuania.
It seemed like the occupation army would stay in the depths of history forever. Yet, in the beginning of August of this year, Russian tanks stormed into Georgia and resurrected those images. It seems like it was harder to believe the Russians would leave 15 years ago than it is to believe they could comeback today.
A month ago such statements would have sounded like paranoia. Lithuania joined NATO four years ago, and we firmly believed we would always be safe from Russian storms under the NATO umbrella.
The only time the clear sky of Lithuanian optimism soured was in 2005, when a Russian jet SU-27 crashed in Lithuania, and Air Force Chief Jonas Marcinkus suspiciously flirted with Russian officers who came to investigate the incident.
The Russian aggression against Georgia has forced even the biggest optimists to stop and think. Even though Georgia is not a NATO member, its ties to the alliance and the US sort of said Tbilisi would be safe.
The Russians, who needed merely a few days to occupy Gori, Poti, and other Georgian cities and who burned and robbed those cities, showed they could not care less about NATO. Even the US was only able to condemn, urge, and express regret.
True, some tend to diminish the Kremlin’s war against Georgia by saying one should not make any conclusions about Russia’s intentions, because the seeds of the conflict in the region had been sown a long time ago and there was no other solution.
Yet, now we have heard this question: Who can be Russia’s next victim, which unscrupulously “defends” the interests of its citizens abroad, – Moldova, Ukraine, or the Baltic states?
It is possible the fear may be exaggerated, but a precedent has been created. After all, Hitler did not attack Poland right away. At first he had examined the West’s reaction with the Austrian Anschluss, the Czechoslovakian occupation, starting in the Sudetes.
Russia already recognized South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s “independence” and entrenched the aggression’s consequences, and we know that one’s appetite grows as one is swallowing foreign lands.
International law expert Dainius Zalimas said Russia’s growing political, economic, and military pressure was a threat to Lithuania’s security. He also said Lithuania ought to re-examine its national security strategy.
Only the Conservatives [TS-LKD] and the Social Democrats [LSDP] reacted to the Russian aggression. Meanwhile, in August (what a coincidence!) 31 MPs launched an attack against the country’s NATO membership [the Constitutional Court was asked to explain whether presence of NATO troops in Lithuania would be constitutional].
Our neighbours got rid of the false sense of security already. In Latvia, they immediately called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the national security strategy.
The Latvian media announced that NATO started preparing a defence plan for the Baltic states. NATO has not confirmed this.
Yet, here is what became clear: The alliance still does not have such a defence plan. Not the best news, when one is hearing reports from Georgia, where the Russian Army is digging more and more trenches.
Fred Kagan, an influential American military analyst, admitted that “NATO contributed very little to the development of the Baltic states.”
Kagan urged NATO to increase security of the Baltic states, because Moscow could be tempted to attack them: “I think Russia has plans regarding the Baltic states and has created a precedent in Georgia, thinking it could use force to defend the Russian minority abroad.”
According to the analyst, only more serious work by NATO would reduce Russia’s desire to attack Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. For example, deploying antimissile and antitank systems.
We continue repeating the fifth article of the NATO treaty, as if it was a mantra: “An armed attack against one or more of the members in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, and other members will take action that they deem necessary, including the use of armed force.”
Does this mean, however, that NATO allies will send their divisions to defend Vilnius? Who could answer this question with a firm “yes” now?
As Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski accurately noted, “documents and agreements are good, of course, but Poland’s history is full of examples of situations in which Poland was forced to fight alone, because allies had abandoned us.” After Russia attacked Georgia, Warsaw immediately agreed to deploy US missiles-destroyers in its territory.
There is nothing similar in Lithuania. It is also hard to say how determined is NATO to change its position on Russia.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Tallinn and Vilnius on 26 August, also realized that Western Europe’s reserved stance in the face of the Russian aggression worries the Baltic states. In Tallinn, the chancellor tried to be consoling by saying NATO would defend Estonia, and it would not be “formal defence.”
Sikorski’s statement, however, is not a mere metaphor; therefore, strategists of Lithuania’s defence policy should not rely merely on agreements and a few NATO jets in Zokniai [airport].
The relative peace we enjoyed for fifteen years after the occupants’ departure has ended. Today, as the Kremlin is showing its growing imperial fangs, we need much more to ensure the country’s security. The government, military officials, and diplomats are responsible for determining what concrete steps must be taken.
Source: BBC Monitoring