Can hardly wait for Nausėda to bang his fist on the table

Gitanas Nausėda
Gitanas Nausėda

President Gitanas Nausėda is increasingly often reproached for being too passive, and a “search for the president” is being announced ironically. Despite the fact that during the first presidential year, G. Nausėda spoke to the public more than D. Grybauskaitė did in the same period, for the majority of our society, the latter’s choppy language mixed with occasional decapitations (which was continuously portrayed in a humorous show) was more appealing than the current state leader’s unelevated tone and decrease of speed on sharp turns, Mečys Larinkus write in

Yet minister J. Narkiewicz is considered to be the President’s first serious loss. It is not just the opposition who dislike G. Nausėda’s supportive words to parliament during the fight against the pandemic. Presidential speeches are listened to carefully and even suspiciously on topics of foreign policy, especially on the Astravyets nuclear power plant. Expectations run high for a strong, categoric, “bang-his-fist-on-the-table” position.

Soon we will hear the President’s annual address. A difficult task for the ones preparing this speech.

G. Nausėda does not have any specific political support, so he may receive comments from various sides. Even without knowing what the text will be, it is not hard to guess that we will not get a clear answer to many questions about Lithuania’s position in the current complicated conditions.

In an interview with political scientist professor R. Lopata, the answer to the question “is it possible to briefly and clearly define Lithuanian foreign policy strategy today?” is “I doubt it. I think that the strategy is to sit down and wait.” I agree with such a brief and clear evaluation. That’s the way it is.

Of course, it would be unfair to extend this evaluation to the scope of all presidents, presidential offices, and parliamentary activities. There is much pondering and decisions are being made about how to save the economy after the pandemic, and how to meet the needs and requirements of different sectors of society. Where should funds for all of this come from? What reforms should be made so that there will be more of those funds?

Sadly for now, in the domain of strategic plans, the impression as R. Lopata has presented. Yet it is possible to ask differently. And to firstly ask oneself: what Lithuania should do, instead of sitting and waiting? What would a state that is drawing strategic lines and implementing a wide range of plans look like? Are they, not just the small states, but also the bigger and even the largest countries, sitting and waiting to see how the pandemic is going to end with its wide range of consequences?

Clearly there is a struggle, an effort, a search for a vaccine. It is still far from the end of the pandemic. New hotspots are emerging not even in elderly care homes, but in entire continents. Even where it has improved, a second wave is already predicted. And how many such waves will there be? But not even that is the most dangerous factor. Sooner or later science will find the antidote. What is new is that a pandemic is becoming an integral part of foreign policy. At first glance, an exclusively medical problem could turn into settling of accounts between states with the help of other, perhaps even hotter, means.

Because of the untimely emergence of the pandemic, not to mention the “laboratory”, nuances relating to conspiracy theories, the US is blaming China, which by no means is considering to turn the other cheek for the blow responding with the same suspicions to Washington DC. And how are these exchanges of opinions going to end? D. Trump’s tone is not easing, as the death toll from COVID-19 is slowly decreasing, whilst for now, presidential election competitor J. Biden is winning in his sleep.

What should most countries do if they do not want to face a troublesome problem? Nothing – just sit tight and wait for the end of the US presidential elections, and the position of the world’s most powerful country after that.

When asked who would win these elections, R. Lopata said that for Lithuania, the US itself should be important, but not its leader. I would agree with such a position. However, positions of the EU countries on relationship with US are already different.

Of course, Lithuania is not playing on the chess board of the big countries’ relationships, therefore in any complicated situation it can manage with general phrases about Euro-Atlantic benefit for us, and, by the way, it usually does.

But that cannot continue for long. Countries, distant and close, will once again regroup and maybe not how we expected them to twenty years ago. Common for many years, independently from election results and separate parties’ opinions, foreign policy program and instruction how to act is impossible to create.

Foreign policy is the result of correct diagnosis of the present situation and ability to implement national interest in those conditions. The concept of “national interest” is often found in the Lithuanian president’s annual addresses and influential political science essays, but the content usually fades in general observations. On the other hand, it is not that easy to more precisely define it.

At this time, when the significance of national states is reviving, perhaps public discussions on what Lithuania’s national interests are will gain momentum as well. It goes without saying that they change historically. Sometimes unexpected tasks rise and grow to the scale of national interest.

For example, efforts made that as many as possible EU states would not buy electricity of Astravyets nuclear power plant, while Brussel’s institutions would become involved in the fight with a monster which is not only dangerous to Lithuania.

By the way, in this case one cannot say that G. Nausėda is “sitting and waiting”. He is speaking internationally much more actively than D. Grybauskaitė did in the recent past. Moreover, if at a certain time we had not looked at our national interests superficially, the problem of Astravyets may not have even been there.

There was a situation, when instead of rushing to close Ignalina’s nuclear power plant, we could have sat down and waited, as did Slovenia, who had the same conditions for getting into the EU as Lithuania.

I believe that there is not yet a foundation to criticise G. Nausėda for passivity. Many variables await in the future and therefore it is better to think before making decisions.
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