Lithuanian representatives returned from the annual Munich Security Conference in a poor mood. China’s threat was emphasised, while the question of Russian aggression was either circumvented or sounded like calls to improve relations with Moscow.
We saw at the recently concluded Munich Security Conference how attention to China, the threat it poses, is rising, while attention to Russia is concurrently declining. Do you think this situation, where we also have Emmanuel Macron saying that relations with Russia should be improved, sanctions lifted and so on, does it pose security problems for Lithuania?
There’s apparent exhaustion with Russia – there’s seemingly nothing happening, everyone has grown bored of the war in Ukraine, it’s even been somewhat forgotten. This is cause for concern because Lithuania’s strategic position is for the West’s prevailing attitude of Russia not to change.
We must recognise that it remains stable for now, sanctions remain, even Macron admits that while he would like to reduce them, there’s seemingly no basis for it, thus at least in this aspect, there’s probably no significant changes ongoing.
You say the “situation is stable”. But how can it be stable when a country such as France wants for the situation to change, for relations with Russia to improve? Can this be disregarded?
I think that there was particular concern last December when the Normandy Four summit was held and there were indeed concerns that France could push Ukraine toward talking terms with Russia, which would not have benefitted Ukraine itself and would have essentially meant Ukraine’s withdrawal.
However, this did not happen, and there’s probably hopes from the Lithuanian side that this will also not occur in the future. That is to say that there are hopes that France might talk publicly about a desire to warm relations with Russia, but will at least not pressure Ukraine to yield ground in the context of the war in Donbas.
Role of the French
Could this be the sort of game where the French are the radical side, but then someone suggests to compromise, noting that France’s wishes can’t be wholly disregarded, but improvements in relations with Russia won’t be to the extent Macron wants? Could this be the case?
It could be. And such a grey agreement or grey zone, upon entering which, there could be various discussions, it’s probably very relevant to us. And Lithuania could perhaps try to justify the claim that it is possible to both have a dialogue with Russia but at the same time greater deterrence in our region.
If Macron wants to warm relations, perhaps there is a need for a display to the Baltic States once more that they are safe. Probably in the context of more NATO troops, more exercises, such things.
This year, there was little attention dedicated to Ukraine in the Munich Conference. Why do you think this is the case, and what risks does it pose?
This could once again be the same exhaustion. There’s seemingly little to no change in Donbas; there’s been no success in coming to terms on how to resolve this question shortly. However, I believe that this should undoubtedly concern us because if Ukraine vanishes from the political agenda, soon the question of sanctions will also be returned to from a wholly different angle.
There is no lack of country other than France in Europe, who would like to change policies toward Russia.