Lithuania – get ready: how not to “sleep through” Russian aggression

Military at Rukla
Military at Rukla J.Butkutės nuotr.

Over the past few weeks, the world’s leading media have been actively circulating materials about a turning point in the war and the balance of power gradually tilting towards Russia. Although no tangible change has been observed on the battlefield, the Kremlin’s position is strengthening, thanks to many external factors: the lack of unanimity in the United States regarding the continuation of funding and weapons; the slowdown in the supply of shells, the Polish border crisis; Orban’s openly hostile policy and the change in rhetoric to cooler ones in Slovakia after the elections there; and a number of other factors that together affect Ukraine’s ability to withstand a “long” war.

The “fatigue” of the partners and the imbalance of unity have whetted Putin’s appetite, who said in a recent final press conference that the goals of the so-called SMD have not changed and everything is going according to plan. And while these statements are not news to Ukraine and only confirm the fact of a protracted war and the lack of an alternative to armed confrontation, neighbouring countries should learn to read between the lines.

The West has long predicted a military clash between Russia and NATO countries. In particular, a Polish top official gives three years to prepare to be able to build up forces and meet the aggressor fully armed. The likelihood of the Russian army invading one of the eastern NATO countries is very high. And Lithuania is one of the targets. But more on that later. Now it is important to pay attention to the following fact: the Kremlin has recently simplified the process of obtaining Russian passports for citizens of Moldova, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Such steps preceded the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Donbas in 2014.

These are perhaps the first warning signs that these countries should prepare for a full-fledged war with Putin, who continues to dream of imperial grandeur. But whether this means that the dictator will also strike at the West, most analysts agree that the probability is very high. However, there is one “but” – Ukraine and its resilience. Ukrainian heroes have shackled Russia’s land power and are making it impossible for the Kremlin to implement its larger aggressive plans, which in recent years has intensified its own agent network in the European Union and is trying, by all means, to divide a united Europe and seize what it considers to be it’s own.

The target is Lithuania

And it will all start with the Baltic states and Lithuania, which Russia is seeking to punish not only for its active support of Ukraine with money and weapons, but also for blocking transit to the Kaliningrad region, which has severely damaged the reputation of the Kremlin tyrant. Add to this Putin’s love of land corridors, and the most likely target of a strike in the event of a clash with NATO would be Lithuania, which would be the first to confront the Russian army moving through the Suwalki corridor.

Poland, of course, is also at risk, but the Lithuanian army will have to deter the main attack. Potential threats have been discussed for a long time. Even Volodymyr Zelenskyy has recently expressed fears that if the war in Ukraine is frozen, Russia will be free to build up its strength and military potential rapidly after a hard battle and will encroach on the Baltic states as early as 2028. Dovile Shakalin, a representative of the National Security and Defence Committee of the Lithuanian Seimas, shares the same opinion, predicting Russian aggression even sooner. Provided that a confrontation between the United States and China breaks out, Russia will not miss the chance to strike the Baltic states.

The fact that a “Leningrad Military District” is being created on the territory of the Russian Federation also testifies to far-reaching aggressive plans. Kremlin propagandists have dubbed this move a response to the growing threat from Finland. But whatever rhetoric is used, Putin’s goal is clear: to go down in history as a neo-czar who managed to regain “lost lands” and revive his former power, as he managed to cause fundamental tectonic shifts in the entire global security architecture.

The aggressor’s impunity and indulgence of his whims is an example that dictators in other problematic countries will follow. For example, Maduro in Venezuela, who also wanted to expand his own territory and is preparing for war. But let’s get back to Europe, where there will never be peace as long as Russia exists in its current form. And if the international community “gives” Ukraine to Putin (which will not happen, because Ukraine will fight) to satisfy his imperial hunger, it will only provoke a much stronger appetite.

The Ukrainian lesson

You should not hope that disaster will pass you by. You need to seriously plan your own action plan now, so that if the worst-case scenario materialises, you have time to evacuate your family. It was the search for ways to save children and relatives in the first hours of the rapid Russian offensive that took precious moments, which is why civilian routes often intersected with the occupiers, who ruthlessly shot at civilian columns. We should consider arranging shelters in our homes, workplaces, schools, hospitals and public places. As practice shows, Russians launch missiles anywhere not only to hit military infrastructure but also to harm civilians, terrorising the population and keeping them in fear. Shelters should have at least two exits and be stocked with food, drinking water and warm clothes. In some cases, people had to stay in basements in the combat zone for several weeks. Therefore, if you are unlucky enough to leave the city where the Russians have entered, you will have to stay in shelters.

It is also worth taking care of your anxiety suitcase. Once upon a time, Ukrainians were sceptical about this, but grief has taught us that the minimum of things, money, food, documents and the most valuable things in a compact bag, backpack or suitcase is the key to mobility and autonomy. Think not only about evacuation routes, but also agree with your friends and family on gathering points in case of a communication breakdown. Enlist friends’ support in advance to ensure that if the worst happens, they can help your loved ones. Do not neglect information hygiene – listen and trust only official and reliable sources.

After all, Russian propaganda and disinformation are terrible things that have killed many thousands of lives. But most importantly, support your army as much as possible: take up arms, join legal territorial self-defence units, volunteer movements, and defence initiatives. And believe in the support of those whom you have helped – Ukraine will survive and will be able to protect Europe from the Russian cancer.

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