A talk on “censorship of criticism” on foreign policy

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Some opposition members note that they have recently been subjected to “censorship of criticism and political debate”, where their harsh words on political decisions are branded as Kremlin propaganda bait. Andrius Mazuronis, a from the Labour political group, argues that today’s foreign policy continues to be plagued by mistakes. Still, Andrius Vyšniauskas, a Conservative, suggests that the opposition should finally decide which side it supports and refrain from “empty politicking”, writing Rimvydas Paleckis at lrytas.lt news portal.

A.Mazuronis, a member of the Labour group in the Seimas, and A.Vyšniauskas, a conservative and deputy head of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats group, discussed the Kaliningrad transit, the pending impeachment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabriel Landsbergis, as well as other foreign policy issues on the “24/7” programme of the “Lietuvos rytas” TV channel.

Doubts about security assurance

Asked to name the mistakes he sees in the foreign policy and in Minister Landsbergis, Mazuronis said that recently he sees a great deal of distraction in Lithuania’s foreign policy, a lack of solidity and a lack of long-term vision.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t really understand the main objectives of foreign policy. <…> What we have seen since the China-Taiwan issue is that such sudden turns in foreign policy are taken without any internal, prior consultation, not only domestically, in the political field, but also with foreign partners, and that policy continues – the Belarusian fertiliser transit issue, and now this Kaliningrad transit issue again.

The objectives that should naturally be understood as the main objectives of foreign policy are certainly not being achieved. Standing in the spotlight is achieved, but that’s the end of the story”, said the representative of the Labour Group in the Seimas.

For his part, conservative A.Vyšniauskas argued that today Lithuania has excellent relations with its European Union partners and partners across the Atlantic, so the country’s most important goal – to be safe – is being realised.

“This is perfectly demonstrated by the same G.Landsbergis who regularly talks with the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and other major foreign policy players in the Western world. As far as I remember, it was not the case before that former foreign ministers had such high-level contacts.

There might have been some occasional contacts with other Baltic countries, but there were no personal contacts, and this is excellent proof that Lithuania’s foreign policy, in terms of its main strategic objective – security – is being implemented and, in my opinion, the Minister is doing a good job,” said Mr Vyšniauskas.

However, according to Mr Mazurinis, “talking on the phone does not guarantee security”, and looking at the concrete results of the work and the “facts on the ground”, the results of the defence of Lithuania’s interests are not visible at all.

“When assessing the China-Taiwan turnaround, there was talk of huge Taiwanese investments, jobs being created, and technological factories. Today, we have a complete round zero. It is clear from the issue of Belarusian fertilisers and the Kaliningrad transit that we have a complete interinstitutional misunderstanding, not only domestically but also on the international stage.

What is the guarantee of our security when our strategic issues are decided without us and without the participation of our major international partners?” the Worker asked.

Although President Gitanas Nausėda has always been critical of the ruling party and of Landsbergis himself, the President’s Office does not support the foreign Minister’s interpellation over the Kaliningrad transit. According to Mazuronis, this could also mean a division of responsibilities.

“It seems to me that in this story, we don’t fully know how who and what is working behind the scenes. I would not rule out that the responsibility for this chaotic situation, which has become a burden not only for us but also for our international partners, is not only on the part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been a significant player but also on the part of the Presidency. I see a certain sharing of responsibility here,” the opposition member reflected.

Mr Vyšniauskas recalled that some time ago, while waiting for clarifications from the European Commission, representatives of the political parties met with the Head of State, Mr Nausėda, and, according to his knowledge, all the agreements on the transit of Kaliningrad had been found, and the opposition had no doubts at the time.

“The uncertainties started when some political interpretations started. <…> I find it very strange to hear, perhaps, some accusations from the opposition that, lo and behold, there is not enough, or there is too much of something. I would invite the opposition to make a fundamental and fundamental decision: do you want transit to happen, or do you want transit not to happen?

Because when the decision was taken, following the EC’s interpretation at the time, that Lithuania would basically take the maximum sanctions, the opposition cried foul: ‘How can it be, Russia has to take everything to Kaliningrad, and everything has to go there, how dare Lithuania?’, and now that the interpretation is softer, the opposition seems to be shouting: “Jesus Maria, everything must be banned”.

You make an internal decision, decide what you want, and we can have a debate. I think that the current decision is the right one, and it is certainly a victory for Lithuania,” the conservative said.

Seeing “censorship of criticism”

Mazuronis added that the opposition is united on foreign policy, specifically on the Kaliningrad transit issue.

“This is probably a call not only to the representatives of the opposition but also to the representatives of the ruling majority, who raise these issues and raise them even more sharply than the opposition. I am most concerned about the management and coordination of processes – when we first do things and then start to coordinate our actions, seeing the consequences with our partners, this kind of foreign policy seems to me to be uncooperative, to say the least,” said the MP.

Mazuronis also said that recently there have been certain censorship of political criticism and debate, with harsher words from the opposition instantly being labelled as bait for Kremlin propaganda.

“Anything that the ruling majority does not like in some form is based on the single argument that your statements are useful for Russian propaganda.

This, it seems to me, is dishonest, to say the least. <…> I agree that we must not overdo the political flavouring of this criticism, but the right to ask questions and to hear answers must exist, it exists in all democracies, and it cannot in any way be associated with some kind of pouring of water on the Russian propaganda mill. This is unfair, to say the least”, explained the representative of the Labour Group.

Asked how to find a balance between criticism and the threat of propaganda, Vyšniauskas said that the opposition itself should address this issue.

“For us, the ruling party, this problem does not arise. We are not in the grip of Russian propaganda in that negative context for Lithuania. But, unfortunately, the opposition is more successful, they get caught up in such situations, so it should be up to them to deal with this problem.

Perhaps we should just refrain from empty politicking in some places, that is all. Because this whole situation and the accusations against Landsbergis, in my opinion, are related to the simple fact that Landsbergis is the leader of a political party, and this is an opportunity for him to be hit, to be stung, to have a lot of publicity, and that is it. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with the content and the context”, he said.

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