Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ
2nd March, 2016
The government of Lithuania intends to maintain sanctions against Russia as long as Moscow will not return the “taken” Crimea back to Ukraine. Perpetual restrictions against Moscow would become a new milestone in the evolution of anti-Russian policies of the official government in Vilnius.
“We will never recognize the illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea, which began two years ago. We will strive to apply European and international sanctions to the Russian Federation over the occupation of the Peninsula until Russia will withdraw from the illegally occupied territory,” – said the statement of the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, “on the occasion of the second anniversary of the occupation of the Crimea”. Thus, the anti-Russian policy of Vilnius began to approach a new milestone: Lithuania unequivocally came out in favour of eternal sanctions against its Eastern neighbour.
Lithuania yesterday tried out the role of the director of the containment of Russia and insists on using a “political whip” against the Kremlin. So, in 2008, the government in Vilnius vetoed negotiations between Moscow and Brussels on a visa-free regime between Russia and the European Union.
The ruling elite of Lithuania, alone, refused the Europeans the right to move freely in the space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
Unilaterally Vilnius became the European closed doors to Russian citizens. Lithuanian officials gained prohibition of entry of the Russian political scientist Sergey Mikheev to all countries of the Schengen zone, a proponent of the good – neighbourly relations between Brussels and Moscow. Diplomatic hawks in Vilnius actively lobbied for the introduction and expansion of “black listed” Russians who Brussels must apply individual restrictions to.
In the rhetoric of the Lithuanian political elite, the neighbour to the East has gradually become the root of all evil, not only to the independent Baltic Republic but Europe too. With the failure of the “Eastern partnership” program, which Lithuania and a number of its European adherents consistently variegated in anti-Russian colors, the policy of the government in Vilnius is, of course, to blame Russia. Naturally, Moscow was the sole cause of the Ukrainian tragedy. “Growing unrest in Kiev corresponds to the installations of the Kremlin: to compromise, to split and to separate Ukraine from the European Union, finally pulling it into the sphere of influence of Russia”, – said the statement of the leaders of the parliamentary opposition Andrius Kubilius and Audronius Azubalis on December 11th 2013 – long before the Euromaidan events were in their most hot phase. At the same time (November-December 2013) the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, herself “warmed up” the situation in Kiev, urging the protesters at Euromaidan to “be more active”.
After the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis the government in Vilnius expanded its role as the director of the anti-Russian containment. Lithuania became a promoter of anti-Russian sanctions. The report of Gabrielius Landsbergis laid the foundation on which the resolution was adopted by the European Parliament, which excluded the possibility of “restoring normal relations under the current policy of the Kremlin”. “Russia has lost confidence and is no longer a partner of the EU,” according to the text of the document.
The Ukrainian tragedy became a moment of glory for Lithuanian diplomacy as it allowed Vilnius to become the flagship of international Russophobia.
The Lithuanian presidency of the EU Council fell on this period; the summit of “Eastern partnership”, which became the starting point of the subsequent political and military disaster in Ukraine, became the pride of Lithuanian hawks. “Lithuania is so proud of its chairmanship in the EU Council that it would gladly chair for the second time in a row. Between ourselves we like to joke that, if it wasn’t for Lithuania, Croatia would not have become the 27th member of the EU on 1st July, Ukraine would not have started a second orange revolution and the Minister of any other state would not have dared to ban mint cigarettes throughout the EU, which the Minister of health of Lithuania Vytenis Andriukaitis did,” – the Deputy Chairman of the Seimas, the head of the Committee on European Affairs, Gediminas Kirkilas, to the EU ambassadors in Lithuania cynically said during a solemn dinner on the occasion of the Lithuanian presidency.
Kirkilas’ “joke”, however, surprisingly vividly reveals the provincialism of Lithuanian diplomacy, in which the military and political catastrophe in Ukraine and its many thousands of victims are comparable to mint cigarettes. So by frightening Russia with eternal sanctions due to Crimea, the government in Vilnius can be referred to as a sack of potatoes. It’s difficult for the Lithuanian ruling class who are not used to paying attention to barbaric Slavic people: the Peninsula is not an impersonal thing that can be passed back and forth. Crimea is 2 million people who, during the referendum in 2014 made it clear: “I want to be with Russia”, and any “return” Ukraine cannot be considered.