After Kęstutis Budrys, the President’s top advisor said that an invasion of the Baltic States by a Wagner-type Russian military group was a possible scenario, both the Presidency itself and Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence, reassured the President that it was only a theoretical possibility, not accurate information, Agnė Černauskaitė and Indrė Naureckaitė are writing at the lrytas.lt news portal.
However, as Kasčiūnas points out, the possibility of various provocations always remains, so preparations are being made.
Could it test the patience of the West?
In an interview with delfi.lt, K.Budrys, the chief adviser to the head of state, said that he does not rule out the possibility that a group of Russian soldiers operating under the banner of a private company of the Wagner type could commit aggression against Lithuania or another Baltic state.
“Such a scenario would meet the criteria mentioned above. The autonomous policy and the crimes that Wagner is committing in Africa or Syria with the knowledge of the Russian political authorities allow us to consider this scenario,” said Budrys.
He stressed that the experience and freedom of action of Wagner and similar organisations in uncontrolled military action is in itself a significant risk factor.
“The West has to make individual decisions about individuals belonging to Russian formations called “private military companies”. These are not private companies: they are quasi-state companies. They are criminal organisations that are not constrained by anything,” said the President’s top adviser.
Budrys stressed that “they can test (Western) response mechanisms and allow the Kremlin to politically explain that it is not involved, as is happening in Africa”.
When asked by lrytas.lt whether the Presidency had any information that Russia was preparing for any provocations in the Baltic States, Ridas Jasiulionis, an advisor to the President, said that Budrys was talking about the theoretical possibility of such a scenario.
“In the interview, you referred to, Presidential Adviser Budrys was asked about the theoretical possibility of a provocation by Wagner-type groups. In response, Budrys confirmed this possibility. No specific information about provocations of this kind was mentioned,” he told lrytas.lt.
L.Kasčiūnas: let’s be calm, but let’s get ready
The chairman of the NSGK, Laurynas Kasčiūnas, also has no information about any provocations against the Baltic States or Lithuania in particular. He also noted that the President’s Senior Adviser had only spoken about the possibility of such actions.
“This was more of an intellectual, analytical example, not something that is now seen as a probability factor in threat scenarios. We simply see that there can be all kinds of (provocations), and we are preparing for them both theoretically and practically,” Kasčiūnas told lrytas.lt.
“There has been no information, and there is no talk about it”, the conservative assured.
However, the chairman of the NSGK also did not rule out that Russia might try to test the limits of the West’s patience.
“It is likely that if they were preparing something for us, they would try to avoid being in the very obvious field of NATO Article 5. So that there would be arguments to say that this is not a government, but a mafia, a paramilitary structure and so on”, Kasčiūnas said.
According to him, the Kremlin’s representatives are very naive if they think they could somehow manage to mislead the Western intelligence “and say that this is not them, but something they do not control”.
“Any factor, any movement towards us, would be clearly visible and monitored. But, of course, any scenario must be prepared for. (…) We have the algorithms, and we are preparing”, said the chairman of the NSGK.
According to Kasčiūnas, the migrant crisis, in particular, helped to prepare how to react to possible provocations by clarifying how different institutions should act and interact.
“Let us sleep well, but always bear in mind that the fate of the security of the whole of Europe is at stake in Ukraine. We need not only to sleep well but to prepare our military capabilities, our interaction with allies, the interaction between our military and the institutions of the Ministry of Interior, and the preparedness of society itself for armed resistance.
Let us feel calm, but let us prepare”, the politician urged.
Antanaitis: theoretically possible, practically – what is the goal?
Military expert Darius Antanaitis told lrytas.lt that. Theoretically, a Wagner-type group invasion of the Baltic States is possible, but he did not see any practical purpose for such a decision.
“Anyone can invade the Baltic States – even a postman with a bicycle can enter our country through an open border. This is the reality. But there is a big difference between theory and practice: theoretically, it is possible, but practically – what is the goal?” – Mr Antanaitis noted.
He does not believe Russia would want to test a possible Western reaction this way.
“Again, what do you want to achieve by testing? What does it want to achieve by joining a paramilitary conflict in a NATO country? It would mean only one thing – an even faster and more lethal increase in the supply of arms to Ukraine because then it becomes a war for the NATO countries.
Therefore, in theory, I think it is possible. In practice, it is pointless”, he stressed.
We recall that at the end of last year, the Kremlin-linked paramilitary neo-Nazi extremist group Rusich asked its members and followers to provide intelligence on border and military activities in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, raising concerns about whether far-right Russian groups were planning attacks or provocations against NATO countries.
The State Security Department (SSD) and the State Border Guard Service ( SBGS) reacted immediately to this information.
“Russian entities, including intelligence and security services, are interested in collecting information of interest to them regularly and in various ways about strategic and military objects in Lithuania, as well as other political, economic, military, scientific and technological information.
We urge Lithuanian citizens to refrain from collecting any information and providing it to hostile states’ entities, not to engage in activities directed against the state’s interests and may harm Lithuania’s national security,” warned the representatives of the SSD.