The clock is ticking for Lithuania to reconsider its security concept, says Landsbergis

G. Landsbergis and V. Bruveris during the interview. Photo DELFI

Lithuania must reconsider its security concept as soon as possible in response to dramatic developments in the international arena, says Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabrielius Landsbergis. He argues that the global structure created after the Cold War is crumbling right in our very eyes, yet Lithuania still avoids discussing emerging existential threats.

“I cannot say that we have started today a discussion that reflects the actual geopolitical situation outside Lithuania’s borders. Despite the fact that we support Ukraine, which is one of the issues uniting the country the most, we have not dared to name fully its direct link to our security,” Landsbergis said in an exclusive interview with Vytautas Bruveris, editor-in-chief of the news agency ELTA.

“I believe that Lithuania must actively consider changes to its security concept and security pyramid that was built 30 years ago. They are happening,” the minister said in a show ELTA kampas (ELTA Corner).

According to him, due to global changes happening in the world, Lithuania must fundamentally reconsider its national security components. Including, Landsbergis admitted, the possibility that the United States, which is a crucial country for Lithuania’s security, might redraw its interests and commitments in Europe.

“It [the USA] remains, and will continue to be, the essential pillar of our security. However, we need to become much more aware of the changing interests of the US and be ready to respond to them,” he said.

Speaking about the necessity to rethink national defence and security, the minister acknowledged that what is happening at the front in Ukraine, Europe, and worldwide is highly unsettling. As regards military threats to Lithuania and NATO’s eastern flank, the politician stressed that the only unknown is when these threats might materialise.

“I cannot say when that will be. Maybe in a decade, maybe in five years or in several years. It is very difficult for me to say. But we may have very little time – and I do feel that and understand that very clearly,” said Landsbergis.

The leader of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) is also worried about the stance of Western partners. In his opinion, the idea of supporting Ukraine and striving for victory against Russia on the battlefield are eroding. Whereas this is determined not only by internal political processes but also by fundamental circumstances – Western countries still have not come to terms that Russia’s war in Ukraine is a war against the entire free world.

Therefore, the minister does not rule out a tragic possibility whereby the West decides to capitulate in Ukraine’s fight against Russia. After all, Western countries rushed to offer to evacuate Ukraine’s government at the start of the war, when tens of thousands of Russian soldiers were invading Ukraine, he recalls.

“Conceptually, it was perceived that this is it – all is lost. Won’t this happen again? I am not sure. Some ‘smart’ politician may appear who will say, ‘look, we offered a flight then, take a flight now’. Instead of offering a thousand tanks,” said the head of Lithuania’s diplomacy.

In addition, he stresses, there are already ominous signs that the West is pressuring Ukraine to negotiate with Russia. Rhetoric about the inevitable need to talk to Russia in the future, when building a new European security architecture, is getting louder in diplomatic corridors, which is incomprehensible to the minister.

“This reminds me of – I apologise for the stronger vocabulary – a discussion with a cannibal about the evening menu. (&) It is beyond me. What kind of European security can I talk about with a country whose aim is to destroy my security?” said Landsbergis, stressing that Russia’s actual intentions are more than obvious.

“All the measures that are being used are meant to enslave, destroy, exterminate, wipe out and subjugate us. This is their policy. I see no concord with this policy,” he added.

– There are two major topics: Ukraine and China with Taiwan. Let’s start with Ukraine – the topic closest to us in every regard. I am one of those who, looking at the Ukrainian front in a broad sense, is increasingly more concerned. The prospects seem to be increasingly bleaker. The counteroffensive has stalled not only because of what Ukraine’s top military and political leadership have already admitted. Moreover, in some areas of the front, the half-a-million-strong Russian military group is trying to take over and is taking over the initiative. Tendencies are not great when looking at the winter and spring period. Battle intensity at the front is not likely to decrease, while battle intensity also means huge Ukrainian losses. Manpower losses are becoming a problem. Furthermore, there is also the geopolitical context. We do not see fatigue of Western countries but rather confusion and strategic bewilderment. Military aid is stalling. These days US President Joe Biden signed a temporary budget without aid for Ukraine. Minister, what do you see in these tendencies?

– I would start with the usual wording – this is both worrying and concerning. All of this threatens with enormous challenges for the West. The geopolitical situation on the European continent may shift dramatically. We are at the precipice of a new reality. There are several facts to what you have already mentioned: the European Union. Since the start of the war, unexpectedly to itself, it has assumed a geopolitical stance. Seven defensive aid packages have been allocated for Ukraine. This was a serious step. Sanctions on Russia…

– This is far from sufficient.

– Yes, but this has happened and it should not be denied. However, now we have been stuck for half a year at the 8th package. The major weakness of the EU has been highlighted – that is the principle of unanimity – liberum veto. This reminds us of the failures of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, when noblemen were taken over one way or the other. This contributed to the collapse and the country’s inability to defend itself. Now we witness the same thing. The package of sanctions, it seems, is moving ahead, but it does not guarantee that Russia will be unable to manufacture, for instance, drones. How may the situation at the front be assessed? Yes, Ukraine received aid, was rendered assistance and proved that it can do wonders with the support it gets, but only because it has a tremendous will to defend itself. We are and will be very grateful for that. Where it was not compensated with weapons, it was compensated with the blood of its people. With its [people’s] lives it literally shielded all of us. Including Lithuania. What aid would have Ukraine needed? Let’s imagine Poland, a country similar in size to Ukraine that shares the same enemies. On the one side Russia, a border with Kaliningrad just as we have, and [on the other side] Belarus, which is Russia’s ally in the war against Ukraine. What acquisitions has Poland announced? 1,000 tanks, nearly 600 HIMARS systems, the most modern F-35 jets. The procurement list is arguably the most impressive in the world. Compare this to what Ukraine has received: several dozen HIMARS, several dozen tanks… This is around a twentieth what Poland would defend with, which is a NATO member and has Article 5 guarantees.

– Isn’t this a symptom that by arming like this, Poland is indicating that it does not fully trust Article 5?

– It is hard to say. At least today perhaps it does not have a reason for a doubt.

– Maybe it is preparing for anything…

– It is preparing for anything. Article 5… It always has to be mentioned that we trust it, it is sacred and the Americans have reiterated this. Yet it is a political provision. This means that behind every decision, behind every vote there are politicians who may have different interests. And those interests are crystallising. Sweden’s NATO accession. The second year is passing. It looks like we are at the finish line, but the last metres are very long. Turkey now had to consider this matter at the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, but it was rescheduled for another day. This seems to be getting procrastinated bit by bit. We can only imagine a country on the eastern flank that would need some decision. Perhaps not because of the invasion, perhaps assistance would be requested over a different threat. And suddenly decisions, which needed to be adopted in several days, are delayed simply because a consensus cannot be reached.

– Don’t you think that such decisions may be needed very soon because it is obvious that the Kremlin regime and its puppet Minsk regime are thinking about and contemplating a revenge plan against neighbouring NATO countries? Poland being the first target. The range of actions varies widely: from the tested irregular migrants, and provocations to terrorist attacks.

– That is why I am talking about the new geopolitical reality. In other words, if the West does not ensure Ukraine’s victory, an opportunity is created for Putin to declare victory today and start preparing for a new war. And it may be anywhere. This is already the third war. So, whoever may claim that now this is the end [that war in Ukraine is the last one for Russia], they clearly either do not know what they are talking about or they are lying in an attempt to reassure the public. 2008 was the end, 2014 was truly the end. It could be that in 2024 someone will come out and say ‘you know, we have reached a deal with Russia and they actually made a promise.’ This would be a lie. Therefore, the only question now is how much we will have been prepared for the next blow on the eastern flank. Russia can recover. There is no question. Despite looking hurt, having lost loads of people. But for them they are just people. For us people are the most precious what we have. The same goes for Ukrainians. That is what distinguishes democracies from authoritarian countries.

– Ukraine is bleeding to death now. The country’s demographic situation was already catastrophic.

– And how many people have left.

– Let’s imagine the worst case, which Russia is obviously striving for having switched to the war of destruction, the war of attrition. Ukraine starts crumbling. In every sense of the word. The front starts collapsing, the state starts collapsing politically, too. We are already witnessing certain signs. Let’s hope that these are just episodic instances, which will quickly pass and people will quickly realise this and pull themselves together. Economy, and infrastructure sustained by Western injections would start falling apart. This winter Russians would start destroying infrastructure with five times the effort. So, in this scenario the country would really begin moving in the direction Russia is pushing it to. Towards permanent, hopeless humanitarian catastrophe without a light at the end of the tunnel. What then, what would be the reaction of the West? What do we do?

– I think we are in the situation where some believe that Ukraine’s position, and them realising the position they are in, might force them to put their hands up.

– Do you have in mind those believing so in the West?

– This is a highly cynical belief. To witness a person drowning in the river and simply sit until he makes a gesture…

– In other words, Ukraine would not be told to put up its hands up sooner, but one would wait for it to grasp that there is no other solution.

– A slow death would be observed.

– Pardon me for almost straying to the level of some conspiracy theories, but could stalling weaponry deliveries to Ukraine be supposedly related to that?

– It is difficult to say. There are objective reasons. The political situation in America has really heated up. This could have been predicted. The country is polarised. This has become a politically divisive issue. Ukraine is an issue of political disagreements. Democracy functions similarly everywhere. The biggest problem is that Ukraine has not become a war of the West. Lithuania has accepted this. Although we are part of the West, but we stand out from the entire group. Therefore, this is our war and many Lithuanians take this personally – we have to win this war. The support of our public and our authorities proves that we accepted this [as our war]. Yet the rest of the West has not done so: it is their war, the war of Ukrainians, which they might win, or maybe not, we may help, but when we no longer can then we will not.

If we look historically, Iraq’s war against Kuwait had become a war of the West for entirely different reasons. The coalition that united more than 50 countries led by the USA made it ‘our war’. It is very similar. A larger regional power attacks a smaller country. The world states this is a violation of the rule of law, thus we have to help Kuwait defend itself. Processes in the Middle East begin. American power grows remarkably. Whereas in Ukraine’s case we are not saying this, we are not doing this. I am not talking about deploying troops to the territory. I am talking about the need of mental understanding that the loss would be about us.

– Ukrainians constantly repeat an argument that this is ‘your war’, in the sense that after them we would naturally be next. Doesn’t this argument work?

– It has not been perceived. Therefore, responsibility is not assumed, nor is there understanding. Imagine discussions about talks sometime in the future. I would not rule out that they potentially exist. If Ukrainians are not supplied weapons, we may find ourselves in the situation when nothing can be done. No weapons, no aid packages.

– But Russians will not be negotiating. Russians will go further.

– Expectations [of talks with Russia] are highly naïve. Hence, we have to avoid the cynical claim that the decision is made by Ukrainians. This is not the decision of Ukrainians. Ukrainians would continue fighting until the Ukrainian flag is raised in the Swallow’s Nest in Crimea, until Donbas and Luhansk are liberated and all the territories recognised by international law are returned. But they can accomplish this as much as we can help them. If our aid stops, they will be forced to halt. This is our responsibility.

– May a moment come when, seeing how the country is crumbling, seeing how Russia is slowly devouring the country, Western politicians will be forced or encouraged to consider the option proposed by the former NATO secretary general: either to admit part of the territory under the control of the Ukrainian government to NATO or provide Article 5 guarantees?

– Perhaps such things may be considered in some form but I would fear another scenario. I would fear the scenario that happened at the very start of the war, when instead of weapons a plane is offered for airlifting political leadership. This would be a major dilemma (&). The idea of flights was floated. It was. Conceptually it was perceived that this is it – all is lost. Won’t this happen again? I am not sure. Some ‘smart’ politician may appear who will say ‘look, we offered a flight then, take a flight now’. Instead of offering a thousand tanks, an adequate amount, as many as it takes to defend Poland. It has to be said that the West cannot lose. We cannot lose this war because the next step will be even more costly, even more dangerous, which will lead to the complete shattering of the system created by the West.

– Do you see a tendency and inclination of Western leaders to begin talks about Russia’s re-legalisation? About opening some dialogue again?

– Vocabulary is constantly repeating. As a person who adores words, I carefully evaluate this: ‘European security is impossible without Russia’. We heard this before the war, at the onset of the war, during the war… ‘European security only with Russia’, ‘We can’t without Russia’.

– They also say that this war cannot be finished with military means alone.

– Yes, they say we will need to talk nonetheless… But we argue that Europe’s security has to be created [separately] from Russia, not [together] with Russia. Our entire historical experience and political experience of recent decades proves that Europe needs security against Russia. We need to help Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, and Poland defend against Russia because its goals are imperial, offensive, political, and diplomatic – all the measures that are being used are meant to enslave, destroy, exterminate, wipe out and subjugate us. This is their policy. I see no concord with this policy because it is directed at us.

– Is this tendency growing stronger?

– It is growing stronger. We do witness certain tendencies. So silent, not in the spotlight.

– Macron has called Putin again?

– He hasn’t called yet. I should stress that so far we have been living in a paradigm created at the Bratislava conference, when the French president recognised the Baltic States’ need for security and approach to security policy against Russia. We will see whether it is sustainable. However, processes are underway in an organisation such as the OSCE, a body set up at the end of the 1970s, which tried to place Russia into a kind of diplomatic format – to create a [European – ELTA] security space together with Russia. This convinced many people, because it happened before the end of the Cold War. However, now we see a reluctance to admit that the organisation’s attempt to have a dialogue with Russia is pointless. We have observed even several steps in this organisation. Half a year ago, the parliamentary arm of this organisation, the Parliamentary Assembly, brought back the Russian delegation at the table. The Lithuanian and Ukrainian parliamentary delegations refused to take part in the debate. And now it appears that the ministerial meeting due at the beginning of December in North Macedonia will seek to have Mr Lavrov back in the conversation on European security. I find it hard to grasp the principle itself, since we have been talking about talking to Mr Lavrov in the formats of a special tribunal for two years. However, some people urge his return to diplomacy. This reminds me of – I apologise for the stronger vocabulary – a discussion with a cannibal about the evening menu. It must be understood that there can be no compromise. 

– Because human flesh should be cooked.

– Probably you yourself – I should be cooked in some way… And even then, I would have to find some compromise that would suit both Mr Cannibal and me. It is beyond me. What kind of European security can I talk about with a country whose aim is to destroy my security? After all, nobody has destroyed its security, nobody has ever threatened it, nobody has ever encroached on it. And yet, thousands of people are being killed by its efforts.

– So it is an attempt to go back to the narrative – a Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok. The other tendency, as we have already indicated, centres on the situation in the United States. Obviously, the main reality there, which determines everything that concerns Ukraine, is the presidential elections. It may again result in having a president who has already been elected once. That president’s views on NATO are well known. Some US media outlets signal in their articles that President Trump and his circle are already making serious preparations to take action if he is elected – either to pull the US out of NATO, or to put the country on ‘standby’ mode where the US is in NATO, but does nothing here. In your opinion, are we talking about real dangers, do we need to think more seriously about them?

– What you are talking about makes nightmare scenarios for Lithuania.

– But we live in times when life itself shows that even the worst nightmare scenarios come true.

– I believe Lithuania must actively consider changes to its security concept and security pyramid built 30 years ago. They are happening.

– What do you mean?

– We have a paradigm, which led us to abandon conscription after Lithuania joined NATO. Then we reconsidered a whole host of things. The reason for that is that Article 5 has been and remains central to our security paradigm. In 2014, interestingly for me, Lithuania raised the alarm saying that Article 5 is the foundation of the foundations, but we have to carry more of the burden ourselves. The conscript army was brought back, the riflemen’s union was strengthened. I would say that a paradigm-level debate was launched to discuss our security situation.

However, I cannot say that we have started today a discussion that reflects the actual geopolitical situation outside Lithuania’s borders. Although we support Ukraine, which is one of the issues uniting the country the most, we have not dared to name fully its direct link to our security. Ukraine is just one of those facts.

The US and its global attention, including where it will be directed next, is no less important. It is probably not a big secret that Lithuania’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific region has a partly transatlantic dimension in it. Being aware of our main partner shifting its focus to the other side of the world, we need to learn about processes taking place on that other side and interests our partners may have there, including those we can be a backup for. After all, we do not have any other pillar.

– But you are saying it is possible that even the key partner could switch to some other regime.

– We are living in a time of dramatic change. The world is transforming from one state to another… The West perceived the moment of the fall of the Berlin Wall as changing the reality of the Cold War into something else: an era of European, transatlantic peace, which has shaped most of today’s politicians. We are now living when the Berlin Wall is being rebuilt. The war against Ukraine is creating a new reality where change can be dramatic.

– All the orders and structures, which seemed unshakeable not so long ago, may collapse.

– They are already being tested and may be tested further.

– Do I understand it right – you are saying that Lithuania is not sufficiently aware that there may come a moment, sooner than we expect, when it is left on its own, at least for a while, for an existential test?

– I want to believe that the country will not be left on its own, as it was in 1939. Back then we had no alliances. In any case, we are part of the most powerful alliance in the world. Alliances will be tested – I do not doubt that. Especially if Ukraine is not helped to win, all the opportunities open for Russia to test these alliances in all sorts of ways – military and other – and we, therefore, need to reassess what can make a difference and what can help our security. I would single out a few aspects here. The first is the United States. It remains, and will continue to be, the essential pillar of our security. However, we need to become much more aware of the changing interests of the US and be ready to respond to them. I cannot find a better word. The second aspect is Germany’s involvement and taking responsibility for European security. This is most manifest in Lithuania.

– The courage to become a political leader of the European Union as well.

– Unequivocally, yes. This manifestation is obvious with a brigade in Lithuania. Troops of the brigade, German soldiers appear in Lithuania on a potential, plausible front, where their presence, just like that of the Americans in West Berlin, would deter Russia from taking military action. This change is enormous, a strategic one – that we have not had before. That is why the message from the German defence minister should, in my view, be engraved on the Town Hall [wall] somewhere close to the message from the US president. It is of crucial importance, and we need to appreciate that.

We need to review and re-evaluate our regional partnerships. The role of Poland should be assessed objectively. Poland is becoming a military superpower in the region. Our strategic partnership is taking on a new meaning in the face of geopolitical turmoil. Our military relationship with Poland is becoming increasingly important. I would not exclude the Nordic and Baltic countries either. The accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO and their significant military capabilities are essential pillars for us.

Then we come to the fundamental question: what about ourselves? What weight should we be able to carry as a country of less than three million people? A country in an extremely sensitive, vulnerable situation between two hostile states: Belarus and Russia. What weight can we carry? Poland has shown what they can carry, or what they plan to carry. We have not discussed that yet.

– But the entire Lithuanian political elite, all the towers of Vilnius, demonstrate the overall movement in that direction: the state is increasing preparations and allocations and mustering the political will to boost its own defence. Are you saying this is not enough, that there is a lack of clear perception of the seriousness of the situation to go into high gear?

– In terms of the paradigm, we are at the point we were ten years ago. We ourselves have become richer, ready to allocate more resources to defence. We actually can be proud of that. Just over 2.5% of GDP for defence, plus the money that will come from the additional bank levy next year and the year after. This puts Lithuania in the top 5 or top 3 defence-spending countries. This is a serious statement. Yet it seems that finance alone still does not reflect the reality of where we are. If Ukraine, as we are seeing that, is forced to negotiate, the world, especially those in close proximity to Ukraine, must start preparing for the next war. I cannot say when that will be. Maybe in a decade, maybe in five years or in several years. It is very difficult for me to say. But we may have very little time – and I do feel that and understand that very clearly. That is why I would very much like to see public discussions about universal conscription and defence funding going above 2.5%. The president raises this question now and then, that we need to aim higher. It is necessary, but it will come at a cost. Just as all the serious things that we need for defence… One cannot go the bank and borrow half a percentage of GDP. We have to agree and admit that the state is in a dangerous geographic location and it has already witnessed a history targeting us. It can repeat itself and we must have a response to that.

– Let’s move on to the next front – China and Taiwan. The problem has recently been exacerbated by the visit of Taiwan’s foreign minister to Lithuania. The fact is that you did not meet him. Once again and once and for all – why?

– There are certain rules for diplomatic cooperation between states or entities. Our cooperation with Taiwan respects the rules. It is not Lithuania’s stance, it is the stance of Western countries not to have government-level contact with Taiwan. This rule does not apply to parliaments.

– Whether it is the speaker or an ordinary member, parliamentarians are freer to cooperate.

– Yes. China is testing such limits and trying to narrow them down. For example, former US House Speaker Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is an acceptable norm. Then I allowed myself to express my joy over the fact that she went there. However, if the visit had been cancelled, new rules would have been adopted, making it much more difficult for Ms Čmilytė to travel there. China is a difficult partner, which is using its ultimate power. One must have a strong backbone to withstand those [tests on] limits.

– This reasoning is understandable, but you would probably admit yourself that amid all the uproar –look, Landsbergis is not meeting… – the main narrative that went public was what the opposition parties were saying: Landsbergis and the Conservatives are hypocrites, they have recently been slaying the dragon, and now they befriend him. This was further intensified by your statement about the ongoing normalisation of relations with China. Please tell us more about that.

– First, about Taiwan. Our foreign policy’s assessment coming from political players is often superficial. I need to stress that Lithuania’s relations with Taiwan have never been stronger than they are today. They are growing closer in cultural circles, particularly economic circles – where we have committed ourselves to cooperation by allowing them to open a non-diplomatic representation in Lithuania. So it is really not fair now to take one headline or another, or an individual episode, ignoring all the consistent work that is being done.

Now on China: I think we have had two moments with China where illegal actions have been used against Lithuania. It is the economic pressure measures in the first case, which were put in place when Taiwan opened a representative office in Vilnius. I must highlight that, following discussions and various diplomatic processes, some of which are still ongoing at the World Trade Organisation, most of the economic pressure measures against Lithuania have been lifted. What I have not made so clear in the past is that Lithuania is no longer under any economic pressure from China. While the trade, which has not been restored, has been more than compensated for. Despite all the shocks, our exports have been growing and continue to grow very successfully and robustly in both the Indo-Pacific region and Europe. Businesses are not choosing China as a partner because of previous experience and understanding that the country uses the economy as a tool.

– Global businesses are now fleeing China. China’s foreign direct investment balance is negative for the first time in history. More money has left China than has come in over the past month.

– Yes. This is because people and companies have realised that the country [China] is making political use of trade… It makes it hard to believe that it will not be used against you. The second tool that has been used against Lithuania is diplomatic pressure. China demands that Lithuania rename its diplomatic mission in Beijing in line with its model. But we have no such models in place.

The talks on harmonising the “visions” have been going on for the past year. More actively at times, less actively at other times.

– Are we now in a period of intensification?

– There have been conversations about the possibility of resolving these issues. Some positive signals are coming from China, at times. Later on, they forget the signals.

– But your position is that the Taiwanese representation should not be renamed to meet China’s demand.

– No [it is not], the issue of the Taiwanese representation is not part of our discussions with Beijing. It is a question of how to alleviate the pressure on Lithuania and how to remove that pressure, which, in my view, runs contrary to international norms. I believe that, with patience and skill, given time, this issue can be resolved.

– Returning to the interpretation circulating about your non-meeting with the Taiwanese minister and the subsequent news about ongoing talks on normalising relations with China. There have been interpretations behind the scenes that the Americans have intervened, ordering an end to the game.

– Nothing of the sort. Our path in connection with economic and diplomatic pressure was confirmed and agreed among the institutions several years ago. We are taking that path. It is too early to talk about very tangible results to boast about or to celebrate… I believe that Taiwan has the right to have a representative office in Lithuania under the name they have chosen. That permission has been given to them, and I do not see any change in that, nor do I think there can be any.

– On the Americans and China. The main geopolitical development of the last few days has been the meeting between President Biden and President Xi of China. Renewal of relations, renewal of the military partnership. The two leaders are talking about partnership and cooperation in a way that they have not heard for a long time. On the other hand, they appear to imply that certain things remain unchanged: President Biden is saying that, after all, this is a dictator and this is a communist dictatorship, and Xi goes on to say that it would be better for the Americans to calm down and end their support for Taiwan, because he will take it back anyway. What is happening here? What are the tendencies?

– I think that both sides realise that we have entered a period of polycrisis.

– The world is crumbling…

– Yes, and this is where the first part of our conversation stems from – we have to be prepared for that. Both sides here realise that the world’s further direction depends largely on their next steps. What has been restored during the meeting is a military telephone, which would allow for dealing with any misunderstandings in the South China Sea or in the Pacific Ocean. For safe passage of planes or ships… We need to understand that the risk of error and misjudgement grows exponentially without this phone. I have recently had the opportunity to visit this region. I have been to Vietnam and Singapore… The tension that is felt there cannot be cut with scissors anymore.

– The Taiwanese foreign minister has said in an interview with ELTA: look, an even bigger hotspot than Taiwan is the Philippines.

– Yes, the Philippines is because of that supposed China’s nine-dash line. China demands that practically the whole of the South China Sea be handed over to it and be recognised as Chinese territorial waters. But that would affect 60% of world trade, it would affect the access to the oceans of the countries around the South China Sea. This enormous change would lead to a breakdown in the security architecture. Opening up a communication line between the two main players – I see that as a positive step. Lithuania is part of the global world. We are embedded in it. When the fabric starts to split, we will feel that. We feel it deeply in Ukraine. The Middle East is now on fire, and Armenia and Azerbaijan remain teetering on the brink of increased instability.

– President Zelensky has warned to keep an eye on the Balkans.

– I read it as a warning about a polycrisis world. Any country which lies on a geopolitical fault line, and Lithuania is one, must be careful. After all, we have just seen a flare-up in the Balkans, with Serbian military units mobilised, or at least the level of activity raised, on the border with Kosovo. America’s active engagement has succeeded in quelling this. But now we must be extremely careful and ask ourselves a key question: what can we do to make the world more stable?


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