V. Savukynas. The time of faltering illusions

Virginijus Savukynas
LRT / Vytenis Radžiūnas

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the world was filled with optimism. Western democracy was victorious, freedom was triumphant in conquered countries, the Cold War ended, the likelihood of all annihilating nuclear war was at an absolute minimum. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Francis Fukuyama spoke of the end of history. This did not mean the end of the world was here, but that the great conflict ended – between West and East, between democracy and totalitarianism. Liberal democracy won and this would be forever, to the end of the world. Or at least for a long time, Virginijus Savukynas writes on lrt.lt.

Almost thirty years have passed and we can see just how mistaken F. Fukuyama was. It was hoped that Russia would become a democratic and open country. However, this exam proved too difficult for it. Vladimir Putin once more created an authoritarian regime, which seeks external enemies and threatens neighbours. It was once hoped that Russia could change. How can you not remember Zbigniew Brzezinski‘s thesis that the key to Russia is Ukraine. If it is drawn to the West, becomes a member of the European Union or perhaps even NATO, when Russian see how well their brothers, the Ukrainians, are living, they will no longer seek their own unique way and will accept Western values.

V. Putin truly destroyed such hopes for a long time. With the occupation of Crimea, war in Eastern Ukraine, the way into the European Union has been barred to the country for a long time, not to speak of NATO. V. Putin has broken the key to Russia. He destroyed that which could have changed Russian society.

Liberal democracy is under pressure today. And this is happening not only in the post-communist Central European countries such as Hungary or Poland. This is also happening in the bastion of liberal democracy – the United States of America. Donald Trump becoming president displays this.

Increasingly many disputes are emerging between Europe and the United States. The earlier world order is breaking apart. With this happening, it is small countries, such as Lithuania, which should be the most concerned. Thus it is no surprise that there are so many discussions on what would be if a threat arose for Lithuania. Would the major countries really help, would NATO Article 5 work?

By the way, we must realise one matter. The world order created after the fall of communism was new, there had been nothing alike before. Truth be told, the West knows what Russia is and knows its interests. However, what of the countries in Central Europe? Here it is size and power are valued. After the First World War, France backed Poland not only due to some exceptional sentiments, it also believed that Poland has to be large to withstand the Bolsheviks. This is why the French were uninclined to listen to the wishes and requests of small countries like Lithuania.

It is similar today. It would appear that Western politicians are returning to long standing historical – geopolitical schemes because it is simpler to think that way for them.

Does this mean that history could repeat? Who knows. One this is clear, the interest of Lithuania, same as other Central European countries, is to defend the current world order because it provides guarantees.

There are many official talks about solidarity, commitments and responsibility in Europe and the Western world. However, we can clearly see that pragmatic interests are winning. This has always been the case. And now, it is concealed less and less. Let us recall D. Trump’s infamous slogan – America first, its interests are the most important. Pretending that nothing is happening is akin to sticking one’s head in the sand. What is needed? We must convince, why Lithuania and the entire Central European region is useful to the West. We must constantly repeat that we are part of Western civilization. And this voice must reach Western leaders. This is the task for the coming decade.

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