Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in Riga, where the heads of diplomacy of the three Baltic States and Poland were meeting, that the birth of a new European security architecture is taking place here and now. Because, according to the Minister, if not here, where? Foreign policy experts have made similar points in the past, calling on the Baltic States and Poland to unite and speak with one voice, Jūratė Važgauskaitė writes in TV3.lt.
At a meeting in Riga with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevičs and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rao, a joint declaration on the strengthening of regional cooperation was signed.
After the ministerial meeting, the head of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said that Lithuania and its neighbours have always had a “sober vision of the danger coming from the East”.
That is why cooperation and close cooperation between the Baltic States and Poland means nothing less than “the birth of a new security architecture in Europe, because if not here, where should it be born?” Mr Landsbergis said that although the war in Ukraine is not yet over, we must already be thinking about the future, about future security guarantees, defences and how we will live when the war is over.
“When the war in Ukraine is won, we will have to decide how we will defend Ukraine (if we have to do it again), how we will help, how we will make sure that what has happened does not happen again. Therefore, it is good that we have a chance to talk not only about the practicalities but also about the future, the way forward, and what needs to be done to make our region safer and better defended. This enhanced cooperation, this environment that we are creating, is the birth of the foundations of a new European security architecture”, said Mr Landsbergis.
He added that he had also told his colleagues about the forthcoming Vilnius NATO Summit, the main issues, and what to expect.
“The issues to be discussed there will be close to us politically and geographically. For example, we will talk about NATO enlargement, defence of the Eastern flank and assistance to Ukraine,” Landsbergis said.
He added that diplomatic relations with Russia are very cold.
“A month ago, we were the only ones in Europe without ambassadors (without the Lithuanian ambassador to Russia and the Russian ambassador to Lithuania), we took this decision after Bucha, and now the other Baltic countries have done the same. I think more countries can follow suit. It takes time, and there are arguments, but I think there is little point in having an ambassador there. And there is no use having Russian ambassadors in Europe either because they are often not diplomatic institutions, but rather propaganda agencies pushing genocidal ideas,” said the head of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry.
The Ukrainian events were predicted long ago
For his part, Zbigniew Rau, the head of Polish diplomacy, assured that although the entire foreign policy of European countries has been under the shadow of war for almost a year now, it was not a surprise for the Baltic States and Poland, we have known for a long time how the formula of Russian imperialism works, and we have brought that knowledge from our history.
He also recalled that what we are witnessing today in Ukraine is a continuation of what started in Sakartveld back in 2008. It was already clear then that after Sakartvel, it would be Ukraine’s turn. It was only a matter of time.
“Lech Kaczynski, the Polish President who tragically died in Tbilisi, said that today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine, then the Baltic States and then Poland. It was as if he was reading a map of Russia’s imperial ambitions. We must realise that we are in the middle of the road on that map. <…> We have realised that our countries are helping Ukraine the most, sending arms and ammunition. This is the biggest help if you count per capita. As you know, we are not the wealthiest countries in Europe, but we want to help as much as possible and as quickly as possible. That is what we are doing. <…> Whenever we have the opportunity to leave, whether it is the EU or NATO, we want to show that Russia is a threat.
It is our strength when we put our shoulders together, when we are better heard and when we can say more, louder. This is apparently the essence of our initiative”, said the Polish Foreign Minister.
Asked about Poland’s military support to Ukraine and when tanks leave the country for Ukraine, he said he would not talk about how much, what and when Poland is sending to Ukraine. That is the agreement. However, he stressed that all the support is coordinated with the allies.
Mr Rau described future and existing diplomatic relations with Russia as frozen. However, he does not expect the situation to change in the near future, and Russian diplomats are doing anything but diplomatic work.
Belarus causes headaches
His Latvian counterpart added that the discussions in Riga had also focused on Belarus, as it is a neighbour that is a headache for three of the four countries gathered in Latvia.
“We talked about many things, including a common border with Belarus, which we need to protect physically and politically, so I think this agreement will help us,” he said, stressing that the meeting covered almost all topics where joint coordination between countries might be needed, from the NATO summit in Vilnius to aid to Ukraine and the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris Olympics.
And the Estonian head of diplomacy added that it was also important to focus on future sanctions packages to ensure that there were no holes for Russia to fall through and to put a ceiling on the price of raw materials from Russia.
Asked how he envisaged further diplomatic relations with Russia, he said that twenty Russian diplomats would be leaving Tallinn tomorrow, which meant that the diplomatic mission was being reduced to a minimum, which, he said, would be the same for other European countries.
“We know from history that we cannot feel secure and look to the future without considering the war that is going on. So a lot will depend on how and when the war turns out”, said Estonian Foreign Minister Urmu Reinsalu.
Calls for unity ring loud
Former diplomat and signatory of the Independence Act, Albinas Januška, has been talking for some time now about the need for the Baltic States and Poland to unite because, according to him, it is not Germany that is the guarantor of security, but the US and ourselves, our neighbours. He wrote this on his Facebook account.
“While Germany is correcting the mistakes of its energy dependence very effectively, the German Social Democrats are holding the whole of Europe and Ukraine hostage with the remnants of their ostpolitik (stability of Europe at all costs, making concessions to the USSR, including at the expense of the freedom and independence of central and eastern Europe).” Germany is a consumer, an object in security terms, just like Lithuania. The only real subject of security creation is the USA. “The US is the main and most important guarantor of Germany’s (and Europe’s and Lithuania’s) security now and will be for a long time to come.”
According to the diplomat, Germany’s views, especially those of its left, will not change soon. “Most Germans are ready for peace for territories outside their own. It is good that at least the German press is critical of this attitude. Unfortunately, Ukraine, like Lithuania, does not have much time to wait for these changes. With its attachment to the brigade as the only serious source of deterrence, Lithuania has fallen into the geopolitical trap of Germany’s collective consciousness, guilt against Russia, and the remnants of ostpolitik,” writes Januška.
However, according to the signatory, there is a way out of the trap. It only requires a strong Lithuanian position. “There is only one way out of this trap – to seek the presence of the brigade in Lithuania, but not only that, not to rely on Germany alone, not to rely on “managed expectations”, but to actively participate in the broader architecture of security in Eastern Europe against Russia and not together with Russia. Together with the US, Poland, and Ukraine. Seek a permanent or rotational air defence force and a substantially permanent or rotational maritime defence capability in the Baltic Sea. We will not replace Germany alone. But that does not mean that we should stop talking. That talking does not change anything. We should not lose our critical thinking. We need to take a broader view, continue public discussions on options for deterring Russia, and act”, said Mr Januška.
The diplomat adds that Lithuania must prepare for NATO troop deployments ahead of schedule.
“According to Mr Nausėda (after Ramstein), the assistance provided by each country to the best of its ability “is the way to shorten this war and the way to achieve victory more quickly”.
“The way to the best of our ability” when the war has been going on for almost a year now, when almost half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed, when tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died when some 16 million Ukrainians have fled their homes when nearly half of Ukrainians cannot and will not be able to survive without humanitarian assistance.
Ukraine is giving us time, but we live next to a volcano that could erupt at any time, and we should cherish the time it gives us. Otherwise, we should plan to complete the defence plans and prepare the infrastructure for the NATO troops in Lithuania earlier, not after 2025, and not in a hurry. For example, how long has it taken us to build a fence on the Belarusian border? When we want to, we can. Germany has the time, and we don’t,” says the signatory.