Dialogue with Russia – what may have to be sacrificed?

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Based on Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) lecturer Laurynas Jonavičius attempts to initiate political dialogue with Russia can be beneficial to the West and with Donald Trump taking the American presidency are also very likely. LRT.lt reported.

“Cooperation, looking from a rational perspective, is always more beneficial than confrontation. Thus with a new US president coming to power, from what he has been saying it is likely he will seek to cooperate.


Russia itself wants to cooperate, it benefits it as well. The problem is what the cooperation conditions will, based on what rules it will happen and what the cooperating sides will receive,” the expert explained.

Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) Political Science and Diplomacy faculty dean Šarūnas Liekis concurs that the main question is cards on the negotiation table, but he notes that negotiations may not even happen.


“D. Trump, claiming to be an anti-establishment politician, will attempt to act unlike prior presidents and state secretaries. He will attempt to claim that his personal ego is so strong and that he is so charming that he will manage to come to terms and make a deal with Russia.

However that may not necessarily happen and it is unclear what will be “on the table”, what they will negotiate on,” said Š. Liekis.


Many clashes of interest

The US and Russia have practically the most basis for cooperation. L. Jonavičius explains that “Russia wants to cooperate because it would benefit it economically and in terms of status it would allow them to sit at one table and talk as equals, perhaps dividing up the world.


The Americans’ priority is likely combating terrorism, strengthening the economy and in this they see Russia, at least theoretically, as a potential partner because Russia demonstrates the intent to fight ISIS and other radicals. For the USA it is also a question of economics, first of all in terms of withdrawal from the role of global policeman being economically more beneficial, theoretically speaking. There would be no more need to spend funds on wars and ensuring security around the world.”

As the expert notes, from the positions of Russia and the USA, cooperation should be mutually beneficial, but the world is not just the Russians and Americans.


“There is us, Europe, Ukraine, other countries, whose interests are specific, completely different and for whom the fact that the Americans cooperate with Russia in fighting ISIS is irrelevant. But if in return for that cooperation the Russians are formally or informally given the right to VETO NATO expansion or Ukraine’s drift in one or another direction, it is natural that certain actors, Lithuania among them, will likely be greatly dissatisfied with such cooperation. The basis for cooperation exists, but it does not mean such cooperation would be successful because there are many clashes of interest,” says L. Jonavičius.

VDU political scientist Š. Liekis notes that the current circumstances do not make for a secure atmosphere for NATO members at the eastern periphery of the alliance, thus the beginning of dialogue can be called a natural alternative in resolving the current situation. He does not dismiss the possibility that division of spheres of influence could appear as a card on the negotiation table.
“The means that are being invested in right now are clearly insufficient to defend the Baltics or Poland in even the intermediate period. Everyone understands this perfectly well, thus one of the alternatives being discussed is the removal of sanctions and making deals on spheres of influence and even territories. It is obvious that political planners always talk and consider such factors and certain proposals are always on the table,” states Š. Liekis.

Eschewing interests for safety?


When asked whether D. Trump’s dialogue with Russia could suit our interests, Š. Liekis says that primarily we need to realise what our interests actually are.

“We should talk of not only Russia being a revisionist power that is at least trying to redistribute borders in Eastern and Central Europe. We know that is the case, but we also need to know and talk about what we as a state are seeking in negotiations and deals of this type. Political planners, politicians and strategists should clearly identify what their greatest and smallest expectations are,” noted Liekis.


L. Jonavičius talks of a need to outline interests. According to him, if we are to look at what Lithuania pursued and did in the past few years, it is clear that we constantly pushed for Eastern partnership, having Eastern European states join the EU, the idea of their democratisation.
“This could not be accomplished if the Americans were now negotiating with the Russians over the possibility of cooperation in Iraq and Syria. This question would be side-lined and shelved, which would mean that a status quo would remain – Ukraine would remain divided, NATO expansion and EU membership perspectives forgotten. In terms of this it would not suit our interests.

But if hold our safe existence and economic welfare as our interests, to not have security challenges in our neighbourhood, hypothetically if the Russians were to come to terms with the Russians, even dividing up spheres of influence, we would, in my understanding, clearly remain on the Western side, safely living in the Western world. Such a scenario is possible, but in such a case we should eschew our identity as a propagator of democracy in the region,” said L. Jonavičius.

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