Grybauskaitė foresees a bleak outcome at the Vilnius NATO Summit

Dalia Grybauskaitė
Dalia Grybauskaitė, DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Outgoing Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė says the Baltic countries have always been right about Russia, but nobody listened to their leaders. After Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, Western leaders have started to recognise the rightness of the Baltic States, they listen, but they are still not heard, Eglė Samoškaitė is writing at the news portal.

D. Grybauskaitė attended a conference at Vilnius University on Tuesday entitled “Europe’s Response. What’s happening in Ukraine and new challenges”. She was joined by former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and the outgoing Latvian President Egils Levits to discuss the response.

“We have failed to deter Russia in general, and we have failed to deter it from starting a war, we have failed to explain to the public and to ourselves what needs to be done, we are at cross-purposes in arming (Ukraine) and in responding to this war. Because we, in the Baltic region, on the border, have a direct emotional connection with this war, we have accepted this war as a war against us. Why have we welcomed the Ukrainians so openly into our homes? Why are we so committed to helping Ukraine? But we did a lot of things after the occupation of Crimea,” Grybauskaitė said.

Russia occupied and annexed Crimea in 2014, but at the time, the West did not react seriously to this aggressive violation of international law: it did not arm Ukraine, and it did not offer a serious deterrent.

“My colleague T.H. Ilves and I spoke very aggressively against Russia’s occupation of Crimea, but we were laughed at, we were criticised, we were not heard. Now, when we meet leaders, especially former leaders, now they complain and say: yes, you were right. We were right about the past. So why are we not being listened to in principle about the situation today? About tomorrow? What is happening, and what will happen again? We may be listened to, but we are not heard,” Grybauskaitė lamented.

According to the former President, this attitude leads us to fail to support Ukraine adequately with arms or even troops if necessary. Grybauskaitė said that at the moment, the West is trying to portray the war as taking place somewhere far away and that we are not dealing with it directly. According to the politician, the West and Russia live not only in different civilisations but also in different time dimensions. The West is still living a peaceful life and is giving some support to Ukraine, while Russia is living a war, with its entire population, its entire economy subordinated to it, and it feels at war with the entire West.

“Mentally, politically and physically, we are not at that point yet,” says Grybauskaitė.

“The decisions that are being taken today and that are being negotiated for the NATO summit are already insufficient even before they are decided. If we look directly and precisely at the details, we see that we are talking about the implementation of the decisions of the Madrid Summit, not about something new. Some small implementation details. Fine words in declarations. But will Ukraine be accepted? Will it be invited? There will probably be a nice vocabulary and a complicated diplomatic language so that everyone can take what is important to them and explain it at home. But there will be no open, genuine invitation. That is my prediction. And it will be a mistake again, we will not be able to deter Russia again,” the politician regretted.

The former Lithuanian President said that the arguments that there is a war going on and, therefore, Ukraine could not be invited to join NATO do not work at all because when West Germany became a NATO member, its part – the East – was under Soviet control. The key here, she said, is political will and the realisation that Ukraine’s security is our security, NATO’s security. Grybauskaitė believes that we will never be secure without Ukraine as a buffer in the security zone.

“In reality, we need Ukraine more than Ukraine needs Ukraine itself. Today, Ukraine’s armed forces are the strongest army in Europe, the most dedicated army in Europe, and the best-armed army in Europe. No other country in Europe has an army capable of fighting on the battlefield in a real war like the Ukrainian army. With all this in mind, we need to have the political will for our own security,” Grybauskaitė explained.

The politician said she is currently travelling extensively and attending conferences and feels that the further one goes from NATO’s eastern border, the more explanations are needed, the more misunderstandings arise, and the more one wants to live a peaceful life and not worry about war.

“But Vladimir Putin is doing his best to keep the war in our minds, he will not let us off the hook. Unless we manage to push him away, with all the power that NATO has”, believes the outgoing politician.

D. Grybauskaitė recalled NATO’s fumbling in Afghanistan when the US decided to withdraw from that country and failed to do so in a coherent and safe manner. The withdrawal was chaotic, with Afghan forces making no resistance to the Taliban and NATO countries scrambling at breakneck speed to rescue people who had helped the Alliance and who were in danger of dying. This, in turn, may have acted as an incentive for Putin to act against the West.

D. Grybauskaitė was the one who, eight years ago, called Russia a terrorist state. That was a very strong statement in the circumstances of the time because there was still a mindset in the West that it was possible to cooperate with Moscow.

The politician says that she is now often praised for this epithet against Russia, but those who praise her still do not understand what is happening now and what will happen in the future. In Grybauskaitė’s view, this is very sad because it shows that we are unable to learn. The former President even stated with sadness that Putin is constantly teaching the West by showing its mistakes and weaknesses.

D. Grybauskaitė urged people not to be under any illusions about Russia’s democratisation, as the majority of the country’s society is steeped in imperialist ideology and looks down on smaller states.

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