Kęstutis Girnius. Has NATO grown stronger? Has Grybauskaitė saved the Alliance?

Kęstutis Girnius
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

From its first minute, the NATO summit meeting became Donald’s “show”. The meeting had not even officially started, but during a breakfast with NATO Secretary General J. Stoltenberg, President Trump began to criticise other NATO states, especially Germany for failing their commitments to NATO, not funding national defence sufficiently.

What position did Lithuania take in this unprecedented NATO summit?

The president’s advisors, journalists, who favour her and social media enthusiasts claim that the president played a significant role, calming down tensions and seeking to mediate between Trump and Merkel. A Delfi article claims that both Trump and Macron received her role especially positively.

The truth is more complex than that imagined by the president’s fans.

Firstly, we must note that at the start of the meeting, after the first attacks against Merkel, the president stated that she agrees with Trump’s criticism of Germany regarding the development of the Nord Stream gas pipeline and low defence funding. The president stated that Lithuania’s position has long been presented regarding these matters. This is true, but is it necessary to reiterate it once more and support Trump as he attacks one of the chief allies of Lithuania that leads the NATO battalion stationed in the country?

Grybauskaitė‘s agreement with Trump’s criticisms reminded me of a person kicking someone who’s fallen down. Under such circumstances, she should have withheld comments.

On the next day, she positively received Trump’s “positive aggression” in attacking allies regarding defence financing because it worked. No independent sources or international media made any mention of Grybauskaitė’s mediation, bar the German Spiegel’s English release, which states that after Trump’s reproaches, Grybauskaitė spoke first, as a karate specialist taking the position of defending the Germans and proposing to agree on certain measures to increase expenses. Three brief sentences, not a word on their impact.

The Presidential Palace posted a video on its website where Grybauskaitė talks to Trump and Macron. Macron earnestly thanks for a “very good and positive” statement. The recording shows how the president walks up to Trump, takes his hand, begins to praise, thanking for the “pressure”, explaining that Lithuania spends 2% GDP on defence. Trump listens, turns to comment to a group of people (I did not catch, what he said) and walks away. The conversation lasts 20 seconds. True, Trump did say “great job”, but he says that to everyone.

The president is clearly seeking to pander to Trump and I would say she is overdoing it. She acted similarly during the Baltic presidents’ meeting with Trump at the White House.

She will struggle to overcome the inherent favour to the USA, which is the guarantor of our security. But pandering to Trump should not be done at the cost of EU countries, especially Germany. Neither dignity, nor subtlety could be called shameful.

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