Lithuanian foreign policy: a self-censorship problem

Mečys Laurinkus
Mečys Laurinkus

After almost twenty years of the voluntary political elite (with small exceptions), and sadly a considerable part of the journalists, being confined and avoiding discussions about Lithuanian foreign policy, some have started to suggest reconsidering these thoughts, Mečys Laurinkus wrote in

In one of the discussions about Lithuanian foreign policy, I heard a statement that, in recent years, talks about the state’s external and sometimes even internal problems were followed by agitation and fear.

I did not understand this. Fear of what? Of the government, starting with the top-level; of political critics; of being sent to jail?

It is true, the ones who say something inconsistent with the “common opinion”, especially about Russia, were (and maybe will be) ‘trolled’, labelled, appointed to different groups of valuable idiots, etc. So what?

Who says that, says at himself (Lithuanian saying, ed.). There is no freedom of speech problem in Lithuania. There is a self-censorship problem.

One decides it is better to keep his mouth shut for various reasons, but not for Soviet-style repression fear. Is it going to be similar with G. Nausėda? Hard to tell.

New hopes with new President

There will be some local politologists even in the new Presidency. There will also be some indulgent people among the ones looking for a way up. The critics are to be avoided, as is the same in the rest of the world.

Yet, President G. Nausėda likes analytical considerations himself, so it is likely that he will find some useful ideas for himself in these discussions. This is especially true at times of hardship for the state, which will probably happen more, rather than less, often.

In one of the discussions about Lithuanian foreign policy in the past and various perspectives, I liked President V. Adamkus’ former Advisor A. Januška’s insight: beginning with the V. Landsbergis epoch, the actions of country leaders were based on a clear strategy. Sadly, this started to fade in the past few years and become a set of diplomatic reactions, which are not always consistent.

Which strategy is the best? Such a strategy that arises from national interests.

On this topic in the history of restored independence, there have not been many disputes, concepts or persuasions while trying to prove which one is the most acceptable. It was because the aim of wellness and safety of the states’ people seemed to effortlessly show the direction of the country’s development – Western Europe, the EU and the best safety option – NATO.

When standing on a stable surface, it is not hard to foresee a few strategies – how to step forward successfully, how to act inside a union (which at this point is Euro-Atlantic), and what are the possible relations with our neighbours.

Uncomfortable questions

As long as the surface is still, Brexit is a substantial hit (and even from inside) to the ‘Titanic’ of the EU.

A NATO challenge is coming – it is Turkey. How about dangerous moves in EU institutions? The steaming fight between the big players over influence on other EU members is not going to cool down.

I do not believe that EU members would look at the tectonic union’s movements by the principle of the literally Czech character Šveik: something will be anyway. Every state creates its strategy and barely shares it even with its strategic partners.

Is it possible for a country to prepare an effective action plan without knowing what the others are thinking? Even those who profess the same values? What does, for example, Poland believe behind closed doors about its role in the EU? This same question could be asked of any member country.

When joining the EU and taking the first steps for establishment, specific knowledge about the partners’ plans was not necessary. This knowledge is now obligatory in order not to stay behind.

In the crossfire between the political “Left” and “Right,” the knowledge gaps were being filled by future strategic partners.

Finding our place in the changing world

When the tension is growing between them, and the strategies of different countries are left behind, it will be much harder to find our place and role.

However, even after putting all the strategic points in a way that it seems correct for the President and his advisors, on some specific occasions, problems of tactical solutions may occur. It is especially important where the military is concerned.

I mean the promise of sending Lithuanian soldiers to Syria. Analyst Kęstutis Girnius thinks that this would contradict the International Law.

Germany has already rejected taking part in this mission. In my opinion, Lithuania should help the USA fight terrorism.

Lithuania is doing the right thing by being fearful and continuously reminding the community about the possibility of the war in Ukraine spreading in the region.

Support Ukraine, and what about Belarus?

Scarcely anyone in Lithuania has doubts that Ukraine should be supported and this should be a part of the political strategy. No less attention should be given for the closest neighbour – Belarus.

For more than a year we have been watching A. Lukoshenko playing with V. Putin. More and more visible is the finish line: either-or. Either Belarus is a cooperating autonomous part of Russia, or it will be one more challenge for European politics.

A few days ago, Belarusian opposition leader M. Statkevich’s interview was published in the Lithuanian press. There it is stated clearly: the catastrophe is visible with a clear eye.

And the words are stated plainly: ‘We no longer have any other levers to pull the government – only the mass protests’. We do not even have to guess what will happen – we’ve seen what happened at the Maidan. This means more than just some protest walks.

‘The means to liberate the country, to save it, sadly are not there anymore. No, they are there, but they are no longer peaceful’, – said M. Statkevich.

It is a message to Lithuania. To think about strategy and tactics before this same thing happens again.
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