Linkevičius: no gifts for Russia for terrorising the whole world

The Moscow Kremlin
The Moscow Kremlin RIA/Scanpix

Concerns about a possible conflict between Russia and Ukraine have not yet subsided, and the media are predicting that Russia may be ready to attack as early as 16 February. The possible scenarios and the current situation in Ukraine were discussed by Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence, and Linas Linkevičius, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador of the Seimas, on the “Lietuvos rytas” TV programme “NeSpaudai”. lrytas.lt reported.

Now we have to do everything we can

While some heads of state are urging their compatriots to leave Ukraine immediately, Lithuanian politicians are preparing to visit Kyiv, with five members of the Seimas National Security and Defence Committee (NSDC) leaving for Ukraine on 16 February. Although some members of the Seimas opposition say that this is just a public relations exercise, Kasčiūnas says it is moral support.

“There is a formula that when civilians leave, politicians arrive. Those politicians who feel the duty to their oath, security, European values, and united ideals with the Ukrainians feel the duty to be there at a difficult moment. (…)

On the same day, there will be a Polish delegation, we will be Lithuanians, Poles and Ukrainians meeting together. I think that when the going gets tough, we are there. We are not just talking, we are doing”, the conservative said.

Linas Linkevičius expressed a similar view on supporting Ukraine under challenging times. According to him, politicians leaving the country is poor support, and Ukraine has needed help for the last few years.

“It is important to understand that Ukraine needs support, not today, not yesterday, but for the last eight years, while the war has been going on. This is because they are the only ones fighting their aggressors with arms. Moreover, they do so at all costs, defending their right to choose and defending European values.

If we are talking about support, then, of course, we must do everything we can. Parliamentarians, leaders, ministers. And at the moment, some are pulling out of Kyiv. Apparently, the image is not very supportive of Ukraine, so we should make sure that not all of them, and not all of them always, pull out,” the former foreign minister said.

The ambassador added that Lithuania is already one of the most active supporters, but we are too small to change the whole situation.

“Lithuania is one of those countries that not only talks the talk but also walks the walk, and everyone here recognises that. Let us also understand that we are not powerful enough to arm the Ukrainian army, but that gesture, namely anti-aircraft weapons, is what they need, and they are talking about it.

As far as political initiatives are concerned, we are one of the more active ones. But, at the same time, we need to build coalitions of people who think the same way and have patience, of course, because things are not always so good”, Linkevičius said.

Laurynas Kasčiūnas reassured us that there is no threat to Lithuania for the time being, but some signals do not allow us to relax completely.

“There is certainly no intention at this moment to put NATO under the Article 5 thresholds and red lines from states hostile to us. But the fact is that we have a slightly changing situation, especially when we see that Russia will move its weapons and its heavy military equipment to Belarus. This was not the case in the past”, the MEP said.

There should be no gifts for Russia

Linas Linkevičius shared a mixed mood among the Ukrainian population at the moment. Some share different experiences when they come to Lithuania, while others react calmly to the situation. However, while there is a recent sign of a decrease in tensions, the ambassador urged caution.

“I would actually think that there is hope, but all this needs to be tested for what is happening in reality, and therefore, it needs to be treated with caution. Especially because I saw a comment just today that Russia is certainly not going to attack anyone unless provoked and that “unless provoked” has been repeated for a long time. (…)

I would be more cautious about making generalisations, but if, God forbid, there is an opportunity for a diplomatic track, you have to think right away that they (Russia – author) will want to get something in return. They have been getting it all the time so far.

Now we should concentrate. Just for terrorising the whole world, for blackmail, for such unprecedented behaviour cannot be a gift because there will be another attack. Their goal remains to make Ukraine a failed state, to destroy its entire integration”, Linkevičius warned.

Talk of possible Russian aggression against Ukraine is heard worldwide, but Ukraine itself does not always react favourably to such publicity. However, Laurynas Kasčiūnas said that such a stance is understandable, as scaremongering immediately damages the country’s economy.

“Every day after such statements, there is a fall in the hryvnia, a question of financial credibility, a question of foreign direct investment, even oligarchs have started to leave.

Of course, they need to be understood because make a few such announcements, and the country will have its feet tapped. So, naturally, they are taking a slightly more moderate position, that everything is under control, they are ready, and they know how to fight. (…) They protect the state in peacetime”, the conservative said.

The former foreign minister added a similar view. He said it is good to keep calm, but one should not relax.

“Calming people down is perfectly understandable, it would be unjustifiable to relax, but there are different things here. We ask how it is in Ukraine if even in Lithuania, people are tense. We certainly explain that there is no reason to consider some aggression in Lithuania, but there is no need to relax. On the contrary, we have to be vigilant”, Linkevičius said.

There’s no sign of retreat yet

Laurynas Kasčiūnas said that Russia’s actions had created strategic uncertainty, which is currently leaving much of the world in limbo but could become a new reality.

“Russia has succeeded in creating a strategic uncertainty that all sorts of scenarios can happen. From military intervention to the localised conflict to political negotiations. But it has been rightly pointed out that political negotiations are not just about how we imagine we will talk and reach an agreement. They (the Russians) want to gain certain areas of influence.

They want the Baltic States to be second-class members, have no military exercises, have no deployment of NATO forces, and have Ukraine commit in writing (…) that it will never be a NATO member. These things are declared, and they can achieve these things through pressure.

I do not rule out the scenario that all this mobilisation of forces, which is constantly on the march with some respite, could become a new reality. Of course, it is expensive, technically challenging to do, but such things can be done in Russia”, the chairman of the Seimas NSGK said.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although the Russian leader seems to be softening his tone lately and sending a message about a possible agreement, Kasčiūnas believes this may not always be a favourable step.

“The German strategic culture, for various historical reasons and ideological reasons, will probably be inclined towards constant conversation and diplomacy.

Where is the problem? Russia has predicted the western response, they’re turning up the temperature, they’re turning it down, and they know that the west will come, they know that they don’t want to challenge militarily, they’ll come from a weaker position, like ‘Let’s make a deal’. And they are negotiating in a situation of such strategic uncertainty, where anything can happen, and the west may want peace at any price. So in that situation, the conservative said more political gains could be made”.

Although there may be hopes that Russia will back down after Russia’s statements about a possible agreement, Linkevičius is not in a hurry to rejoice.

“This situation reminds me of when someone steals 1000 dollars, then returns 100 dollars, and everybody is happy about the cooperation and the good atmosphere. It is the same here. They have raised the bar, they have alarmed, and now they are going to let up a little bit, and there will be a lot of voices saying, “Look, we can talk constructively”.

That is what they are hoping for, and with good reason, because it has worked so far. We must finally realise that the aggressor bred for years now has practically no brakes and no restraint in its encroachment on the foundations of European security. That understanding is not yet there today”, the ambassador said.

The Chairman of the NSGC said that there could be no concessions to Russia at this point in time, as this could escalate into an even worse situation in the future.

The former Foreign Minister also said that a retreat from Russia should not be expected because of Putin’s situation. He said such a move would be too weak for the Russian leader.

“He is also counting the cost, whatever it may be. The price has to be acceptable, and apparently, he still gets some information that it will not be without any loss and probably not without loss of life, it all has to be calculated here. But I think he will not go because that is a sign of a weak leader. He has set the bar so high, he has even written and written what will happen if this does not happen, that if he suddenly backs down, he will appear weak. He cannot afford to do that, and he has chosen this way of acting”, Linkevičius said.

lrytas.lt

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