Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said that the deployment of NATO and the US military in the Baltic states in particular is a “strong deterrent” for Russia. He announced this during his speech at the Munich Security Conference.
“Without the support of the United States and other NATO allies, we could not effectively contain the Russian threat,” said Nauseda, adding that the alliance forces in the republic should be well trained.
Commenting on RT’s statement by Nauseda, the first deputy chairman of the Federation Council committee on international affairs, Vladimir Dzhabarov, noted that Russia has no and never had any intentions to attack Lithuania.
“Frankly, it’s a little ridiculous to hear such speeches from the mouth of the head of state. Firstly, no one was going to attack Lithuania, otherwise no one would give it independence in 1991. Secondly, I don’t really understand what forces Lithuania, in which case, can “restrain” Russia, ”he said.
- President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda
- © lrp.lt
Dzhabarov is sure that Nauseda’s statement is part of efforts to maintain Russia's image as an “enemy of the alliance." Without it, the senator believes, "the very idea of the existence of NATO becomes incomprehensible and illusory."
Andrei Suzdaltsev, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of World Economy and World Politics, said in turn that the words of the President of Lithuania fit into the general anti-Russian rhetoric of the countries of the Baltic region.
“The state ideology of Lithuania, like other Baltic republics, is based on Russophobia and the denial of the positive role of Russia. This is the foundation of their existence and the meaning of independence. Lithuania perceives itself as a victim and at the same time an outpost of the West in the face of “barbarian Russia,” he said in an interview with RT.
Lithuania sees the United States as “one of its most significant allies.” According to the materials of the Ministry of Defense of Lithuania, US support played a decisive role in the process of integration of the republic into NATO. As part of the Atlantic Resolve operation, a battalion of the American army, armed with tanks, armored vehicles and artillery, was stationed in Lithuania.
The tasks of the US Armed Forces include training of Lithuanian colleagues, developing cooperation in the framework of exercises and mastering a potential theater of operations. US troops are perceived by Vilnius as a “deterrent” factor in the event of a possible armed conflict.
Currently, about 500 American troops are serving in the republic. At their disposal are 29 Abrams tanks and 21 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
Lithuanian Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis is a supporter of the expansion of the foreign military presence in the country. At a joint press conference in October 2019 with his German counterpart, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, he announced that NATO should provide air defense for the alliance group stationed in Lithuania.
In addition to foreign troops, since 2015, a NATO forces integration unit has been stationed in Lithuania. It is designed to facilitate the rapid deployment (within 48 hours) of the Rapid Reaction Force.
According to the Global Firepower analytical portal, which assesses the military power of states, Lithuania does not have its own combat aircraft. The sky over the republic and other Baltic countries patrol planes of NATO member countries. So, on the website of the Ministry of Defense of the country it is reported that from February 3 to 9, alliance air mission fighters took off twice to identify and escort Russian military aircraft.
On the old way
Gitanas Nauseda was elected President of Lithuania in May 2019. In this post, he replaced Dalia Grybauskaite, who was remembered for extremely anti-Russian rhetoric. According to Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Alexander Udaltsov, at the first stage there were certain hopes that the new head of state would take a more pragmatic position in relations with Moscow, but this did not happen.
“Unfortunately, last year there were no positive shifts in our bilateral relations with Lithuania. Although at a certain stage there were, I must admit, hopes when the presidential elections in Lithuania took place. But, unfortunately, practice has shown that the new leadership of this country has followed the path beaten by its predecessor, Dalia Grybauskaite. The anti-Russian line has not weakened, but has even intensified in some ways, which we regret to note, ”RIA Novosti quoted Udaltsov as saying.
The diplomat added that no interstate communication formats are currently working between Russia and Lithuania.
- Russian Ambassador to Lithuania Alexander Udaltsov
- © Embassy of the Russian Federation in Lithuania
A similar point of view is shared by RT experts surveyed. According to them, the new Lithuanian authorities continued the anti-Russian course.
So, in August, Nauseda said that negotiations with Russia at the highest level are unlikely due to the situation in Ukraine. And in October, Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis announced that the country's armed forces intend to completely abandon the use of Russian military technologies and equipment by 2025. We are talking about the Mi-8 helicopters still in service with the country, which are supposed to be replaced with American counterparts.
In December 2019, Nauseda was noted by two anti-Russian statements. First, he declared the importance of recognizing Russia as a “threat”, and then accused Moscow of trying to “rewrite” the history of World War II.
“Recently, Russia has been diligently trying to rewrite history. One example is the denial of the secret protocols of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on the painful history of Europe, ”he wrote on Facebook.
Andrei Suzdaltsev calls Russophobic accusations of Lithuania “fabrications”. According to him, the calls of Vilnius to oppose Russia are contrary to common sense.
“Lithuania’s statements about the“ Russian threat ”are devoid of any real basis. Cries of “occupation” from Russia are due to the fact that Vilnius is trying to be “necessary” to NATO, to integrate into the alliance’s strategy, where it has no place, ”the analyst said.
Russophobia as a way of survival
According to analysts, statements by Gitanas Nauseda at the Munich Conference on the need to contain the “Russian threat” indicate a lack of substantial Lithuanian foreign policy.
“The President of Lithuania has nothing to talk about at the Munich Security Conference. The only thing that the authorities of these unfortunate post-Soviet countries can broadcast at such events is to endlessly repeat the mantra about the mythical Russian threat, ”stated the director of the Institute of the Newest States, Alexei Martynov.
- American troops in Lithuania
- © Petras Malukas
The expert notes that Vilnius is once again trying to use Russophobic statements to justify requests for Western states to provide financial and military assistance.
A similar opinion is shared by Suzdalts.
“From the point of view of Vilnius, the“ unenviable role ”and“ selfless deed ”of the Baltic countries in the confrontation with Moscow imply a certain compensation. For this reason, they constantly ask the United States and the West to provide them with military assistance, invest in the economy, build bases or allocate money for the purchase of weapons, ”he said.
In these conditions, continues Suzdaltsev, Vilnius is directly interested in the further development of the confrontation between the West and the Russian Federation.
“Lithuania behaves like a typical limitroph and at the same time as a geopolitical marauder trying to capitalize on confrontations between Russia and the West. The worse our relations, the more attention the West pays to the Baltic states. Lithuania is critically interested in exacerbating the geopolitical situation and is trying to pit NATO with Moscow. For them, this is a way of survival, ”the expert stated.
Washington uses this situation to position its military infrastructure near Russian borders, the analyst points out.
However, experts expressed confidence that the NATO forces in the Baltic states from a military point of view do not pose a real threat to the Russian Federation.
“There is no danger, since the sovereignty of the Russian Federation and its allies has been secured for many decades ahead by the successes of the Russian defense industry and the presence of weapons that have no analogues in the world. The United States and NATO are well aware of this, ”concluded Alexei Martynov.