Laurinkus. In the shadow of Moscow and Zapad, Lithuanians taken hostage by Lukashenko and his circle

Vladimir Putin, Alexander Lukashenko
Putin and Lukashenka, AP/Scanpix

As a regular citizen and of importance only to myself, I would like to extend my Easter wishes to the staff of the Belarus sanatorium in Druskininkai, who are not giving up, and the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which finally began to scratch its head about how to aid the harmed people because up to now, it appeared that the only position presented by a strategic Lithuanian institution, whose head is appointed only by the party that wins the elections, was a saying translated from Russian – write letters. Mečys Laurinkus wrote in .

For a time, that’s what the victims did. They would then receive the response, “it’s none of our business,” until President G. Nausėda stepped in. I believe that it is possible to find a suitable solution, the European Commission wouldn’t oppose it either. Nationalisation perhaps? Something else maybe? The important thing is to show that a business doing humane work cannot be taken hostage by A. Lukashenko and his circle.

Finally, Lithuania’s president could make use of his authority in Brussels. By the way, I find there to be a lack of position on the part of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. Either version of it. Who, if not they should be actively engaged in seeking to aid the victims. Especially when an entire two of their members of the European Parliament have the party chairperson seat in their sights. They could showcase that they receive large wages for a reason.

At the same time, there are plans in Belarus to resume protest rallies. As an admirer of philosophical classics, I agree with Heraclites’ saying that “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

The protesters need to change both their strategy and tactics. The now imprisoned Belarusian presidential hopeful V. Babaryka is forming the party Together. A belated but correct step. But the regime’s actions are also predictable – it will do its all to ensure that the opposition is “together” as little as possible.

A stick has two ends. Other parties will be “manufactured.” Pro-Russian, pro-Western, nationalist ones. Explaining to whom Vilnius actually belongs and so on.

I wouldn’t dismiss the possibility that the “cockroach with a moustache” will participate in the elections. One thing is clear – the elections will not occur before Russia wills it. More accurately, not before the Zapad 2021 exercises end in Belarus’ territory, including the Kaliningrad Oblast.

The exercises should be vast, displaying to the West what is what and, perhaps even more importantly – where, considering the “gun to NATO’s temple”, which is what Russian military experts call Kaliningrad. At the begging of summer, there are also plans for the NATO exercise Defender Europe 2021, which will span from the Baltic to the Balkans.

The Poles are worried about both exercises. At the beginning of this year, Polityka cautioned that “the exercises of two clearly hostile forces will be held almost simultaneously.” A. Lemoine’s article Should we expect a NATO-Russia conflict? on the news portal Agora Vox states that the likelihood of incidents in such large scale exercises is vast.

The exercises aren’t the first ones ever and, most likely, nothing terrible will happen during them, but voicing concern isn’t prohibited. Just as it isn’t to ponder on various what-if scenarios or pose questions on, for example, how long we could resist in an actual conflict.

I agree with the words of the Lithuanian Minister of National Defence A. Anušauskas: “Deterrence policy prevents the existence of any myths about 24 or 72 hours because the potential opponent sees and understands that no 24 hours will suffice. Neither will 24 days.

It would be a long, brutal and bloody confrontation. Without victors. But we will dedicate all our resources to avoid it.

Nevertheless, there are ample musings from not only civilians but also servicemen (often retired) about what would happen in the case of a conflict. The Swedish publication Aftonbladet: “In case of war, Russia will have superiority. Moscow can send up to 68 mechanised battalions to Northern Europe in a week, NATO – just 43.”

However, it is Kaliningrad we find at the peak of all musings right now. Poland comes first. Gazeta Polska: “One could expect an attack to come from Kaliningrad Oblast. Its strategic positioning and diverse weapon systems would guarantee Russia’s success in at least the first hours of a hypothetical war.”

At the same time, Russia is releasing numerous texts on how it has no plans to attack anyone but has formed a second motorised riflemen’s division in the area and renewed weaponry in the region for defensive purposes. How everything would function in a hypothetical conflict, they will look to showcase during the Zapad 2021 exercise. Well then, we’ll watch and judge. It would be good if the upcoming exercises, both NATO’s and Russia’s in Belarus, would be accompanied by professional commentary, something that there has been far more of in Lithuania than during the first decade after accession into NATO.

I am writing all this not in order to intimidate myself before sleep or that we would also add on the threat of war under the dome of the pandemic just after Easter.

I am writing it because of Belarus. Even if the protesters do manage to see off the “kolkhoz chairman”, Moscow will not let this country go easily. For Russia, Belarus is a strategic territory and it will cling to it at any price, even occupation.

No special military training is needed to see this. For Russia, a grip on Belarus is necessary not only in terms of its relations to the West and NATO. It is also necessary in regards to Ukraine, which, in the opinion of a number of experts, could even become the spark for a frightening confrontation between Russia and NATO. While the pandemic rampages, all other threats seem either theoretical or distant. At least during the holidays, we have an opportunity to glean some optimism that we will be able to be rid of all threats.
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