In tennis terminology, the meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in the Helsinki courts on Monday ended with the latter winning 6:0. While the head of the most powerful state in the world futilely cut the air with his tennis racket, his opponent cunningly took all the points.
The Lithuanian people’s security and welfare are at the cusp of our national interests. History has shown that we are a Winning Nation when we manage to unite, when we agree to seek common goals in unison. Thus, even in this time of massive geopolitical changes, it is important to act in unison, seeking to maintain a world order based on rules, seeking to maintain the EU and NATO alliances, which ensure our security and economic welfare.
How would this work in practice in policy and national security? Here are six steps.
Firstly, we must admit that our capacity to defend the state depends directly from the civic maturity of those living here, from a modern economy and military preparedness. We must seek an economic breakthrough so that in 10-15 years we would reach the Irish level of welfare. That none would want to leave Lithuania and everyone would want to live in Lithuania and would be proud of it.
Second, we must nurture civic mindedness, patriotism and entrepreneurism from the school bench. So that the new generation would have a strong value basis, would want and seek to serve in the Lithuanian military, would obtain entrepreneurial skills, which would help Lithuania seek breakthrough in its economy.
Third, we must invest in defence, following the example of Finland, strengthening territorial defence. Intensify military cooperation with Poland, the Baltic States, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark because we are on the first lines of the potential “front line.” We must not stop seeking and must not yield some Washington expert and politicians’ assurances that the permanent presence of US troops in the Baltic region is unrealistic. We were told the same 20 years ago about NATO membership.
Fourth, we must double our lobbying efforts and resources working with the US congress, expert community, Pentagon and State Department. So that we would contribute to the systemic resistance to D. Trump’s irresponsible showmanship politics. To seek that the US would uphold its NATO commitments to the defence of the Baltic States; international trade order, which is based on rules, consistent support of Ukraine and Georgia and maintaining sanctions against Russia while the Minsk Agreements are unaccomplished.
Fifth, Lithuania should more wisely and more actively express itself in the Three Seas Initiative, which was started by Poland with strong Romanian and watchful, but powerful US support. The goal of this initiative is to create an alternative transport infrastructure system to Russian gas pipelines, paving roads for US liquefied natural gas into the European market. This would be an effective contribution to European states’ dependence on Russia. A Three Seas Initiative summit meeting will be held in late September and the Lithuanian president should both participate in it and express support.
Sixth, the future of Europe. Europe is and will remain our country’s direction. We are and will remain Europeans, seeking peace and welfare. The multiple speeds / flexible Europe proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron matches our national interest of “being at the forefront of EU integration processes,” as President Dalia Grybauskaitė said. At the same time, I believe that we should aid Germany in leading strategic debates about the security interests of Germany and Europe and the necessity for Germany to take greater responsibility in “hard” security and defence. We should take lead and uniting the heads of Germany’s neighbours, call upon Germany to invest significantly more in defence.
This would be far more effective than D. Trump’s arrogant complaints and accusations from across the Atlantic.