Mečys Laurinkus. Should Lithuania really strive to be at the front lines of Russia criticism?

The Kremlin, Moscow
The Kremlin. Moscow Reuters/Scanpix

In an interview with the current, perhaps most prominent representative of information warfare from the Moscow side V. Solovyov, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs S. Lavrov stated that Russia is prepared to suspend diplomatic relations with the EU if the planned (currently only verbally) sanctions over A. Navalny will impact “sensitive areas of Russian state life, Mečys Laurinkus wrote in

”The statement, while very much akin to one made from a lofty tribune, received widespread commentary in Russia and beyond its borders (including in Lithuania) and was even cushioned by V. Putin’s press secretary D. Peskov.

A few days later, S. Lavrov further clarified what he had in mind and under what circumstances diplomatic ties would be suspended.By the way, V. Solovyov was not accused of relaying the message insufficiently accurately.

This is because that’s how it was staged – namely through the news media, seemingly through a free form conversation whose content can be interpreted in various ways, rather than an official text, sending a signal to Brussels with the nearing of an EU foreign minister summit, which is also due to discuss sanctions on Russia.

The plan was successful, the signal was sent and I believe that the EU states will struggle to find consensus on sanctions. Even if they reach it, it’s unclear how specific they might be – perhaps just a repetition of ones that have long lost any significance to Russia.

Perhaps it will even be proposed to postpone the decision to a later date.

This is due to two reasons – the anomalous winter and Sputnik V.The cold is pressuring half the planet, green energy is faced with massive challenges and the price of oil is climbing. It is a golden age for Gazprom once again. Based on the conglomerate’s data, which I cannot currently verify, Germany has increased its gas purchases from Russia by 33.5%, Turkey – 30%, Italy – 112% and France – 43%.

A number of European countries are now increasingly starting to doubt whether Nord Stream 2 should be scuppered. The US’ positions are softening as well.No one can accurately predict what upcoming winters will be like and what other anomalies await. And then, however much you might be against it, you might have to stretch out your hand to your enemy.

It is currently unclear what irked some members of the European Parliament the most, including some of Lithuania’s representatives – whether it was how the EU’s head of foreign affairs J. Borrell unsuitably defending A. Navalny or that he praised Russia for its vaccine.

I have a feeling that the story with Sputnik V won’t end all that simply. I will myself take the “state and party” approved vaccine, but why should people be barred from choosing otherwise.

Anomalies, pandemics and ecological catastrophise could in the very near future change state relations, possible completely forgetting what previously divided and antagonised them.

However, even without global cataclysms, the relations between Russia and the West are not what those participating in information wars wish to see. After all, between countries, it is national interests that dominate and not values, opinions or convictions.

It is namely national interests that set the real balance of relations. Lithuanian Foreign Minister G. Landsbergis has recently said (advised) that prior to making decisions or forming relations with Russia, it is necessary to get to know it better and act less based on aged imagery from the B. Yeltsin era.

Truth be told, this imagery can be drawn from a variety of periods in Russian history: Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov or Grigory Otrepyev, whom the Lithuanians and Poles delegated to become Russian czar.

But the minister had something else in mind. He believes that Russia has greatly changed since the time of B. Yeltsin and we must know what it actually is now. Yes, it has changed. Based on various rating criteria (not just economic ones), it has risen from the hundredth place in the world state ratings in the year 2000 to 50. It’s no longer rock bottom.

Russian society views this positively (65%) and is by no means interested in returning to the one-hundredth position.V. Putin is no longer praised even indirectly, but I believe that his statement about the B. Yeltsin era privatisation reform, saying that, “It is unacceptable to sell state-owned companies for pennies when they are worth millions, if not billions,” is correct.

After all, how was it that a whole guard of Russian oligarchs emerged, with many of them now residing in the West? I recall an interesting theory. Based on it, Russia is up to the Urals, while beyond is China, its rising influence. Russia cannot stand up against it. Russia’s salvation is to turn towards the West where Poland, the three Baltic sisters and the Eastern Partnership squad could become drivers.

The theory has not gained a physical form and I think that it won’t. Russia has climbed up from the bottom in other areas as well. It modernised its military. During the Russo-Georgian war, I saw the Russian military as a gang of marauders treading after tanks. Currently, the high (not my evaluation) preparedness levels of the Russian armed forces are recognised by experts, including senior military officials in the Pentagon.

Evidently, this recognition is accompanied by concern.G. Landsbergis could do the Lithuanian public a solid and task a respective department in the ministry to draft an impartial report on the situation, primarily the economic aspect. What are Western interests in Russia? What investment is there? How are sanctions handled? For example, German investment in Russia, having fallen steeply in 2014, is on a rapid increase again. Should Lithuania really strive to be on the front lines of criticising Russia? And lose transit due it.
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