Since the outbreak of the war in Israel, protests in Europe have become more violent and brutal, and deadly attacks in Belgium and France have claimed civilian lives. Security expert Colonel Ignas Stankovičius, a Colonel with the rank of Colonel in the Army, and the guest of Žinių Radijas on TV3 says the situation is alarming, and the public needs to prepare for such attacks.
Last week, two Swedish nationals were killed in a terror attack in Brussels. Two weeks ago, a teacher was stabbed to death in France. How the countries where it might happen are able to deal with it will determine whether it happens again, Mr Stankovičius told Žinių radijas’ “Living in Europe” programme.
“This is not news to the services. But will it ignite like a fire and spread? Here is the main question. Why it is a serious question is because globalisation does not only affect the economy – if we are talking about globalisation and the sub-globalisation of the world in one place – it inevitably spills over into other areas. <…> And whether or not it expands depends on how countries can act accordingly,” said the Colonel.
However, it raises doubts about whether the services have the algorithms to handle all situations. After all, terrorist attacks are usually not spontaneous – they are well-planned attacks.
“The side that makes these waves is also planning. And it wants to catch them by surprise – the surprise factor and the shape and targets of the attack can be different. For the authorities, this means having the appropriate preparations and, let’s call them, brainstorming, working, creative meetings – intellectual sessions where you have to play both sides of the game – thinking where the adversary might strike, what to do – and being prepared at least with an algorithm, to know what we will do. The vital functions of any country, any state, cannot be compromised,” Stankovičius explained.
On the other hand, we cannot leave all the responsibility to the institutions alone. According to the security expert, the public must also prepare for this, as it is the main target of terrorists. Initially, their attacks are aimed at frightening the population and making them doubt the capacity of the authorities and institutions, and if trust is not restored, the public itself agrees to restrict its freedom and starts looking for a firm hand.
“Terrorists target to disrupt society. If we accept that the other side is anti-democratic, that it does not like the freedoms that exist in the Western world, then what is the way to limit those freedoms as in the South? So that society would want to restrict itself so that it would start to want a firm hand? To do that, we need to create confusion so that [people] start to be angry: what is the government, the institutions doing? We need to elect a dictator”, Stankovičius commented.
Unrest in the world and false reports in Lithuania – no coincidence
Recently, attempts have also been made to influence the Lithuanian public by sending threatening and inaccurate messages about explosives to various institutions. There have been days when a few or even 2,000 recipients have received such letters. According to Mr Stankovičius, it is unlikely that the false reports and the global unrest are just a coincidence.
“When such disturbances occur, those who like to express themselves and create turmoil seize the opportunity,” the security expert noted.
However, this is not linked to Hamas’ war against Israel. Eyes are on another aggressor, Russia, as Vilmantas Vitkauskas, head of the National Crisis Centre, has previously told Žinių radijas. Mr Stankovičius agrees.
“What was reproached – was the so-called Lithuanian anti-Russianism, and from where the legs are sprouting, you can tell from the text (the text of the threatening letter, which hundreds of recipients have received – editor’s note) – the Arabs don’t care about it,” the Colonel said.
According to Mr Stankovičius, society needs to prepare itself for this, as the primary purpose of such attacks is to oppress the public against the authorities. The public and the authorities are always in a kind of confrontation, which, in his opinion, is mainly the authorities’ responsibility.
“This is mistrust. If the government doesn’t trust the public, the public will pay back the same thing – it doesn’t trust the government. Look at our laws – how many restrictions there are on most people, looking at them as potential criminals. This is not the way to go. Unfortunately, we have come from a time when the government was afraid of its people,” said Stankovičius, adding that when a society trusts its government, it rallies around it and becomes more united.
I. Stankovičius noted that the government must make moves to increase the public’s resistance to such attacks.
“More trust in society. It’s more than just talking about it but showing it. If the public is resistant to this, the terrorists will not achieve anything,” said Col.
For its part, the public should also take action and not wait for rescuers. Mr Stankovičius stressed that in the context of information wars, governments or institutions will not protect people. The population itself must possess the knowledge and skills to do so.
“If people have more immunity against disinformation. And how do we distinguish? We must learn to strengthen critical thinking,” the security expert said.