Eastern Europe is presently apprehensive and unsure of what the future holds for its 24 countries that currently share residence with an ever-growing belligerent powerful neighbor in the mold of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Though, the region’s state of fear had always been there ever since Putin began his Tsarist tendencies in Georgia; Putin’s first war with a neighbor, and former soviet republic that facilitated the secession of South Ossetia and Abhkazia from Tbilis’s control in 2008. But, not as the heightened fear that currently pervades Moscow’s neighbors.
Watching Lithuania’s President, Dalia Grybauskaitė discuss the present security situation in the region, especially the Ukrainian war which has strong Russian involvement and support for the rebels in Ukraine’s east, attests to not only the Lithuanian president’s fears for her country’s sovereignty but, the entire Baltic states and eastern Europe from being trampled upon by an aggressive Russia.
Having seen Russia’s aggression go overboard in Ukraine; a development that saw Kiev haplessly watched its Crimea territory annexed by Moscow. With no sight of Putin slowing down in Ukraine’s Eastern region as he has overtly supported the rebels with weapons and men with the aim of carving out a new state out of Kiev’s territory, Vilnius had no choice than to brace up and have a contingency plan for what seems to be an imminent “Hurricane Putin” tearing down at her.
Listening to the Lithuanian president speak on Christian Amanpour’s show recently, one would agree that the need to reinforce the question of Lithuania’s security and sovereignty can not be overemphasized in the face of a belligerent and powerful neighbor, Russia.
Already a staunch anti-Moscow advocate, having condemned Putin’s actions in Ukraine by labeling Moscow a “Terrorist” and insisting on a decisive NATO response last year November, it came as no surprise to see Grybauskaite reinforce her stance for western actions in defanging rabid Russia from hurting or bullying her smaller neighbors.
“The entire Baltic states and entire eastern Europe needs to be protected by a proactive western response in confronting Putin’s Russia.
“The war in Ukraine is simply Russian aggression. And it violates the principle of statehood.” She told Christiana Amanpour while appearing on her live show, Amanpour.
Like a diligent student of History, learning from the errors of the past to correct the future, the Lithuanian president is leaving no stone unturned, as she does not want her country to be caught unawares by Putin’s Russia’s whirlwind that threatens to re-establish soviet style influence in her country and the entire region. A perception turned reality, fuelled by Putin’s excesses in Georgia and now, Ukraine.
What went down in both ex-Soviet Republics, most recently in Ukraine shows the extent to which Putin can or will go to stifle any form of Pro EU ambitions in former soviet states. Putin dreads the expansion of the West and NATO into what he considers as traditional corridors of influence that was exclusively Soviet’s before it became defunct. Hence, he would go to any length to preserve this legacy under Russia.
And making scapegoats out of Georgia by facilitating the break-away of South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2007 and now in Ukraine’s east where he supplies weapons and fighters to the rebel, Donetsk People Republik fighters, is clear statement of intents from Moscow to the rest of the Baltic States. Simply put, ”Go no west, see no evil.”
But, the Lithuanian president is not ready to be bullied by Moscow. Though a small country that can’t defend itself in the face of a Russian invasion, Vilnius is trying to ramp up support from the international community, and most importantly NATO; insisting that the Military bloc will have to start activating the Article 5 of the Alliance that pledges Military and combat support to any member of the group in case of an aggression or attack.
Grybauskaite is and continues to be wary of an impending Russian aggression-having seen what happened to Kiev, she believes Vilnius and other former soviet enclaves could suffer the same fate that befell the Ukrainians
And like a Chihuahua she has been whimpering to get the World’s attention on the looming threat Moscow poses to her country and the entire region.
So it came as no Surprise when she revealed on the Amanpour show that, Vilnius will be looking for other markets elsewhere to replace Russian gas. That decision means Lithuania will be terminating the contract with Moscow’s owned gas company, Gazprom no easy feat.
Gazprom had been a steady supplier to most of Russia’s neighbors including Vilnius and calling it quit as Grybauskaite suggested won’t hurt Russia but, Lithuanians. It is a known fact that Moscow offers credit facility and also subsidizes her gas to most of her neighbors; an economic pie that Grybauskaite is willing to sacrifice just to protect Lithuanians
A sacrifice Lithuanians must be ready to pay for their hard earned freedom from the ruins of the Soviet Union. But, the earlier Vilnius finds alternative to Russian gas the better. Because come winter when the Russians turn off their gas taps, and with no alternative gas supplier to keep Lithuanians warm, Grybauskaite might have to seek warmth in Putin’s arms.
But, for now we are still in the summer and the Lithuanians can still have solace in Mother nature. Not to take away anything from Vilnius though, but it seems that the Lithuanians are hell bent on not only “dining, using a long spoon with the devil, but are even ready to leave the whole dish to the devil to have his fill.” Hence, guess keeping a safe distance from Moscow seems to be Vilnius’ lesson learnt from the Ukrainians.