Why is Lithuania losing the hybrid war with Russia?

Cyber attack

International relations experts keep repeating that Russia is already in a hybrid war with the West. At Kremlin‘s command, Russian special services tampered with US presidential elections, are attempting to do the same with the German federal parliament and French presidential elections, recently in the Bulgarian and Moldovan presidential elections pro-Russian candidates won as well. Russian intellgience is linked to cyber-attacks against the entire US political system, as well as other states – Lithuania among them. Though the threats are very real, recognition, preparation and prevention appear uninteresting for both the state government and the institutions which should ensuer national security, alfa.lt reported.

General Gerasimov‘s doctrine

This is what the actively implemented new military doctrine, named after the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Valery Gerasimov. According to the general, the rules of war have changed and non-military means have become more effective than military ones.The Russian strategic community calls the new rules not hybrid war, but new generation war. It means that coordinated and focused diplomatic, economic, information and other pressure means are employed together with military action.

The ratio of non-military to military action is four to one. War begins without declaring it and often without realising that it is ongoing. Moscow is operating through influential politicians as well.

How deep into Lithuania is Russia operating?

Meanwhile in the Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) reports we only find information about the activities of marginal political forces or individuals.

“I believe that they are often used as a diversion. That Algirdas (Paleckis – Alfa.lt) – he is so visible, at least to Lithuanians, that in focusing attention to A. Paleckis, it appears that there is no need to focus on anything else. But that influence is far deeper, often operating through individuals with business interests in Russia, who actively participate in politics. I do not know a single person who does business in the West, but has gone into politics, while here we have had many – Viktor Uspaskich, Rolandas Paksas and others, and those links somewhere in the depths of the Social Democrats themselves,” said Seimas National Security and Defence Committee (NSGK) Deputy Chairman Rasa Juknevičienė.

Links between Karbauskis’ business and Putin’s oligarch

Questions have been raised regarding the leader of the new coalition government, Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LPGU) Chairman and fraction Prefect Ramūnas Karbauskis’ family business links with an oligarch closely related to the Kremlin.

“Acron, where Viatcheslav Kantor is the main owner, as well as Rostselmash, where in 2013 Ramūnas Karbauskis’ companies obtained the right to sell Russian tractors and combines and there is no need for reports (just from public sources – Alfa.lt), that it is a company related to D. Rogozin (Deputy Prime Minister of Russia curating the defence industry – Alfa.lt), that they could have financed events related with Krimea. Essentially those companies are not private the way we imagine, it is part of Vladimir Putin’s political system, even a part of the budget. Companies that are entangled with European organised crime, something discussed by Swiss reports and many other things,” stated Juknevičienė.

R. Karbauskis himself states that it is just business, but after the Yukos shareholder Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s imprisonment business magnates no longer operate as independent actors in Russia. The wealth of oligarchs is used to ensure Russian strategic goals are met. Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor assisted the regime in destroying M. Khodorkovsky’s business empire, mediated in selling restricted strategic winged rockets to Iran, which are capable of delivering a nuclear payload, which were held in Ukraine. These negotiations were held with the blessing of the Kremlin.
The Acrong group is also cooperating with the Russian defence industry. M. Kantor, who is close to Russian President V. Putin, is leading the European Jewish Congress. Based on unofficial, but confirmed news, the Ukrainian intelligence suspect that Kantor could be a freelance agent of Russian foreign intelligence (SVR).

A Rosatom middleman in Seimas management

Social Democrat Mindaugas Bastys has been elected Deputy Seimas Speaker. This politician is also tainted by links with Russian strategic industry. Several years ago M. Bastys brought the Vice President of Rosatom Overseas, a foreign export company under the Russian nuclear energy state corporation Rosatom, Aleksandr Merten and Jevgenij Kostin, who has been linked to Russian intelligence interests in Russia, to the office of the then Seimas Speaker Vydas Gedvilas.
“Certain problems were presented before me from several meetings with A. Merten, who is, by the way, from Kyiv, lives in Ukraine and one of the relevant topics was the closure of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, of course other other questions are interesting, what this company is doing in other countries, that is Hungary, Finland, Belarus, what plans were made for Kaliningrad Oblast,” Bastys defended himself.

The way M. Bastys defends himself is simply an audacious lie. In fact Merten is no Ukrainian businessman and curates the Eastern European region in Russian strategic industry, this including Lithuania and Ukraine.

Links with another individual representing Russian interests

The other hero of the scandalous visit, J. Kostin stems from a family of Soviet and Russian intelligence. His father served in the LTSR (Soviet Republic of Lithuania) Committee of State Security (KGB), his brother is serving in the Russian federal security agency. J. Kostin has particularly been taken care of by Russian foreign intelligence service (SVR) Deputy Director Yuri Zubakov. Kostin is a constant concern of Lithuanian secret services, having come to attention as the leader of the illegally functioning Baltic Humanitarian Centre, later renamed International Baltic Academy.

Such institutions pose a threat to national security as it has been observed that they were recruiting police, border guard and other officers of the state.

The appointment of M. Bastys has been met with dissatisfaction from the opposition as well.
“A person, whose activities based on the single episode in 2013, out of who knows how many because only one was discovered, are very dark and very murky, more background, related with a time period very important to the Kremlin due to the nuclear power plants in Astravyets, Belarus and Kaliningrad, Russia. The Belarussian nuclear power plant is being constructed by Russian (from the Rosatom Corporation – Alfa.lt) companies and specifically those murky actions, it appears was a positive thing. Not only did this result in a promotion and it was valued not by the party, but on entering government, with the help of the “Peasants”. They have taken responsibility, they do not mind that such a person with such a shadow can become Seimas Deputy Speaker,” R. Juknevičienė voiced her concerns.

“It is unacceptable that we have some sort of odd links or meetings with Rosatom, when, as is well known, energy infrastructure is not just a matter of energy in Russia, but also of the security and defence system. For example recently a representative of Rosatom was appointed as a high official in the Kremlin, responsible for internal security. But such contacts should be not only harmful, but also shameful,” said Seimas Foreign Affairs Committee member Žygimantas Pavilionis.

Concerned with the Astravyets NPP project

Seimas Deputy Speaker M. Bastys’ friend A. Merten is one of the Rosatom leaders curating the construction of Astravyets NPP in Belarus. He has ridiculed Lithuanian concerns over the security of such a nuclear object as political insinuations, calling the object itself exemplary.

Member of Seimas and former Lithuanian ambassador to the United States Ž. Pavilionis is also surprised why the new government is not putting in efforts to develop relations with the US and is not including the prevention of the Astravyets power plant construction among its priorities.

“We can celebrate this majority’s years after 2-3 years when the ribbons are cut for the Astravyets NPP and then all these fellow emissaries, both Belarussian and the Kremlin’s people will rush in here through all doors with all sorts of figures like Bastys or the like and won’t just interact like that, so that they would open the doors for export from Astravyets through us into Europe,” Pavilionis cautioned.

Decrying Russian international crimes

Lithuania recently decided not to allow entry for Russian Constitutional Court judges, who were to arrive at an international congress in Vilnius. This was decided because the Russian Constitutional Court ruled in favour of the annexation of the forcibly taking of Crimea from Ukraine. Russian actions were decried by the Lithuanian Constitutional Court as well.

“If we are dedicated to the rule of law not just in declarations, but in actual fact, then we can under no circumstances agree to how the Constitutional Court was used in Russia – to perform crime. Since everyone knows perfectly well that the annexation of Crimea was an international crime, then in this place, probably for the first time in history, a Constitutional Court participated in performing a crime and the professional jurists knew about the criminal premises of their ruling, this is what caused us to at least declare our position,” said Constitutional Court Chairman, Professor Dainius Žalimas.

The resolution initiated by the Court was also supported by the chairmen of the Polish, Cypriot, Georgian, Azeri and Moldavian constitutional courts.

Kremlin’s preparing revenge

Due to the Lithuanian ruling to bar entry, Russian Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin travelled directly to complain to Russian President V. Putin in the Kremlin, who strongly condemned it.

There is no doubt that the Kremlin is preparing revenge upon Lithuania and perhaps even Chairman Žalimas.

One of the forms of such a response could be cyber-attacks, which Lithuania has encountered a number of times. For example when the leaders of Crimean Tatars visited Lithuania.

The same group striking America and Lithuania

The same Russian intelligence affiliated hacker group, which is suspected to have hacked the presidential campaign of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attacked at least 4000 decision makers and journalists in Eastern Europe. This happened between October 2015 and May 2016.
A part of the so-called “Fancy Bear” targets were also in Lithuania, journalists among them. While the Americans are convinced that this the Federal Security Service, Israeli intelligence suggests that this group is more related to Russian military intelligence – the GRU.

Meanwhile the VSD in Vilnius is just hopelessly observing. Not reacting to President Dalia Grybauskaitė‘s public criticism regarding how institutions are even using Russian software, including the Police Department and Bank of Lithuania. The programmes remain in use, the projects are being developed.

“The former government did nothing that should be done against hybrid threats, here the President is saying that we are under attack, that is that there is a hybrid, information war, that we have to act as if during war time, there has to be a coordinating organisation for hybrid threats, it should be either a government or non-government, or mixed organisation, which would have the authority, which would coordinate all the actions of governmental and non-governmental organisations, which would have the resources, which could make the decisions, which could inform society about such things,” said Colonel Association management member Vaidotas Malinionis.

The reserve colonel also stresses that there are many forms of hybrid warfare, the influence on important politicians is not in last place among them.

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