Raimundas Lopata. On a conference organised by Vygaudas Ušackas

Raimundas Lopata
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

“Whether we love Vytautas Landsbergis or not, we must admit – particularly in relations with Russia we must be direct and not sugar-coat our words. What do we see nowadays in the professor’s Conservative party, the Homeland Union? Mikhail Khodorkovsky‘s visit to Vilnius has not yet been forgotten. M. Khodorkovsky was unable to say in the end that Russia had attacked Ukraine and has occupied its territories. He describes the events as the Ukrainian Crisis, as if Ukraine were at fault that Russia chose to attack and annex its territories. Vygaudas Ušackas, whose birthday M. Khodorkovsky visited, is in essence repeating the same. Our, European Union, ambassador in Russia usually also talks about the Ukrainian Crisis, conflict in Ukraine, destabilisation in Ukraine and has accented that supposedly “we cannot attribute everything to Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine.””

This is the start of a text published three years ago. We have all written a great deal on the issues of Ukraine and I thought there was no longer any need to touch this topic.

However, Kaunas Technology University Institute of Europe director Vygaudas Ušackas, who is a candidate to the post of Lithuanian president now is organising an international conference in autumn named “20 years after the Nida initiatives. What next?” and this forces me to speak up.

Let me remind that several decades ago Lithuania and Russia jointly proposed the Nida Initiatives to the European Union Northern Dimension project.

The initiatives intended for the stable development of Kaliningrad Oblast (Karaliaučius) encompassed fifteen regional cooperation projects in economics, energy, transport, culture, environmental protection and other areas.

The goal of V. Ušackas’ conference intended to commemorate 20 years of the Nida Initiatives cooperation with Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast aims to evaluate contemporary geopolitical realities.

These, according to an invitation signed by V. Ušackas, are the Ukrainian conflict, differing views of political pluralism and the rule of law. Also, initiatives of how to reduce tensions with Russia would be discussed.

The plan is to talk with Russia in Lithuania, partially or completely ignoring our region’s geopolitical problem – the occupation of Ukraine.

Without Ukrainian participation and overall not considering the fact of occupation as a serious problem. There are plans to discuss questions as if not being in the EU, about EU and Russian problems as if it were the EU that had them and the conflict in Ukraine being who knows what.

I am writing to those who believe that by fighting Russian aggression, Ukraine is also defending us from the same Russian aggression. Those who believe that Ukraine is to blame itself for being attacked by Russia or that no one threatens us need not read on. It is futile to argue.

Thus Russia with all its military might attacked Ukraine, occupied and annexed Crimea, occupied part of Eastern Ukraine.

For this, the USA and EU established sanctions to Russia, provide aid to Ukraine. Since Lithuania and the other Baltic States are the most sensitive area for potential further Russian expansion, Lithuania is vitally interested for Ukraine to stand firm and for Russia to pay a massive price for this gamble.

Russian policy is clear in this case – to convince individual EU member states of EU member state politicians that this is no occupation, but an internal conflict in Ukraine and Russia is only involving itself to the extent of defending Russian speakers. And the Kremlin is distributing the message, calling the occupation simply a military conflict because if it is a conflict, then both sides are approximately equally to blame.

The goal is to erase the distinction between the concepts of victim and aggressor, as well as reality. The Muscovite operation is obvious – to change the political dictionary and facts alongside it.

And one must admit that Russia is faring well in this propaganda war – both in the EU and USA you can often enough see statements about the Ukrainian conflict, not Ukrainian occupation.

Lithuania, because of the aforementioned crucial national security interest, must seek for the vocabulary to match reality – occupation and annexation.

Beyond this “war” of terminology, Russia is seeking for the problem of the Ukrainian occupation to be put aside in the international agenda, for the occupation (or according to Russia – conflict) to be frozen, for all states to seek friendly relations, trade benefits with Russia, to thaw dialogues that have been frozen for a time.

V. Putin is acting aggressively, intimidating and smiling as he watches how various political figures, particularly in the left and radical right EU political wings are lining up to reduce “dangerous tensions”, speak about the same or new regional and sub-regional cooperation, forgetting Ukraine. Just imagine yourselves in the Ukrainians’ shoes. To us, Lithuanians, this should not be difficult.

The interest of Lithuania is completely opposite. If Crimea will be forgotten in the 21st century in Europe, negotiations as usual will begin again and Moscow will obtain a fundamental argument that it could repeat such a scenario unpunished. Just elsewhere. Thus, Lithuania should be against any more serious dialogue, who first question is not the matters of the Ukrainian occupation.

All those acting otherwise should seem “useful idiots” aiding Kremlin interests in the Lithuanian perspective.

I had to present these simple truths prior to moving on to the aforementioned conference by V. Ušackas, in which Kaunas Technology University has been involved.

It is namely in the conference invitation that the main statements and goals are outlined that can in no way accomplish Lithuanian interests. The Ukrainian occupation is described as the conflict in Ukraine and the main goal is to discuss about the diverged values of the EU and Russia. As if the EU should still explain itself, supposedly the EU and Russia are approximately even in this.

I understand, why this conference is being organised. V. Ušackas is running for president and seemingly in competition with S. Skvernelis is employing the spreading viewpoint that it is necessary to also obtain “pro-Russian” votes. But not ends should justify all means. I understand, but I do not excuse.

To campaign that we must dedicate at least 2% of GDP to national defence, but at the same time contribute to weakening our security is unfair. And especially to use the topic of Ukraine in such a deceitful way for the electoral campaign.

Perhaps V. Ušackas will answer me and many may agree with him that such dialogue with Russia is good because it is better to talk than fight. Unfortunately, this seemingly mundane piece of common sense does not apply in this case.

Dialogue in this case of diplomacy is in fact no dialogue at all – it is simply the implementation of the Russian imposed tale, narrative, playing to the benefit of Kremlin interests.

Thus, I am sorry, but I cannot participate in this conference though in my time I have contributed to encouraging various Kaliningrad initiatives. Talking to Russia at this time seems more than odd. A feast during a plague.

I know not whether two former prime ministers, G. Kirkilas and A. Kubilius, have reflected on where they will participate, speak and lead discussions. We should all consider this more carefully.

Meanwhile, V. Ušackas should make use of his experience and could use this opportunity to organise a wide-ranging international conference, how to support the 2k (Kubilius-Kirkilas) initiatives over the Marshal Plan for Ukraine, regarding Ukrainian de-occupation.

Perhaps he would lose several pro-Russian votes, but he would bring much more benefit to the interests of Lithuania rather than the Kremlin.

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