Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius has discussed the new round of verbal wars with Russia on the TV3 programme “Comments of the Week”.
President Grybauskaitė has called Russia a terrorist state and the comment caused a lot of reaction: some experts say she did the right thing, calling things by their real names, while others reproach her, saying that Lithuania is once again trying to play out of its league. What is your take?
There are always a variety of opinions. I believe that it is important not just to say something, but to also explain what you mean. I think that the president has explained her position, she did it more than once. It is indeed better to call things by their true names, especially when the situation is as tense as it is and is not improving – therefore clarity is always an asset.
Do you agree that Russia is a terrorist state?
I might not have put it in such words, but I have said multiple times that it supports terrorists. I think it is a self-evident observation. There is evidence that not just fighters are being sent there [to Ukraine], whatever we call them – they are terrorists, mercenaries – but also heavy weaponry, tanks. You cannot buy tanks at a department store. It points to support from a government. And if a government supports terrorist groups, then call it what you will, there is something wrong with this. Especially if the government in question is a permanent member at the UN Security Council.
Why is it up to the leader of a small state to say it – why doesn’t Angela Merkel, for example, dot the i’s? She has much more influence and Putin listens to her.
She [Lithuania’s Grybauskaitė] is not the only one saying harsh words. The German chancellor, too, is sounding stricter and stricter as she is getting increasingly annoyed. Or David Cameron, the British prime Minister, who has compared the current situation with the Nazi regime. We could get into race of who said what, but I believe that the important thing is to grasp the essence of the matter. And the essence is, unfortunately, sad.
Is there finally a common understanding among major powers that Putin is reckless, that he cares little about the West turning away from him and that he will do what he has been doing until now?
I see things a little differently. Rhetoric from Russia will not change, it will never acknowledge mistakes nor express repentance, but I do not believe – and would advise others against thinking – that they do not care. In fact, the consequences that Russia is suffering are painful.
Russia’s reply to President Grybauskaitė’s statement was a personal insult. What is Russia’s goal here?
That was the goal. By the way, the reaction is a sign of nervousness, if you will. If Moscow were indeed indifferent [to what other countries think of it], the reaction would have been either absent or more dignified. This was a far cry from a dignified reaction, so I think that the statement hit the nerve. It must be unpleasant to hear someone thus pointing at the heart of the matter.
How do major European powers react to such statements by small countries? France, Germany – are they not uncomfortable hearing such things coming from within the European Union?
There are different opinions. When we discuss policies among ourselves, many different things get said. It does not mean that we censure one another.