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  Relations of Lithuania and Russia: depressive uncertainty (1)

Valentinas Mitë
2009 09 01

Currently there are no formal reasons for bad relations between Lithuania and Russia. There are only aggrieved Moscow‘s ambitions preventing from normal trans-national relationship.

It was not Lithuania to mess this relationship, however, the absence of clear Lithuania‘s policy toward Russia is worrying. The situation becomes even more aggravated when it is not clear what the current Russia is up to.

Until 1940 Lithuania‘s relations with Russia or USSR were good, but USSR occupied Lithuania on the same year. We couldn‘t resist even symbolically.

It could seem that now it is high time to remedy these relations.

To my mind, the nostalgia of the lost empire is an important factor preventing from normal Russia’s relations with the Baltic States.  Mourning over the lost empire is understandable, but it should have time limits; the same could be said concerning our reprimands to Russia for Lithuania‘s occupation by USSR. However, so far normal dialogue with our neighbor is impossible due to several reasons.

First of all, the approach of the Russian authorities towards themselves as takeovers of the USSR‘s rights is very ambiguous.  On the one hand, it seems „yes“, but on the other hand (and this is related to the commitment for Lithuania‘s occupation) – kind of „no“. Although the fall of the USSR was peaceful, especially in comparison to brutal wars in the former Yugoslavia, V.Putin's words that this fall was the major geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century must not be forgotten. The above statements make the Baltic States feel uncomfortable.

They say today that Russia is not soviet anymore, but again, there are both „yes“ and „no“.  A small, but symbolic detail: Lenin is still lying in the Kremlin unburied.  It is not clear why one of the darkest personalities of the 20th centuries is so respected.  What we would say about Germany if it still had Hitler lying in the mausoleum?

Russia does not have a clear approach toward the Baltic States and its own history. Russia apologized the Czechs and Hungarians for the harm done by the USSR. It did not present the apology to Lithuania, although this step could finalize the historic period related to occupation.

An ambiguous Russia‘s position does not mean that tanks would soon start roaring toward the Lithuanian borders. The Russian authorities would not start a war against Lithuania, a member of the EU and NATO, since it has different interests and does not care about the Baltic States.  However, we cannot feel fully safe and consider our independence irrevocable.

So far we have the balance when neither the West, nor Russia has will for expansion.  But let‘s not hurry and put Russia out to pasture, as the Versailles Germany was put long time ago and felt unfairly humiliated.  Nobody could expect that twenty years would be enough, that Germany would start threatening the entire Europe, and, after making use of the political and spiritual helplessness of the West, occupy half of it.

Let‘s imagine that the economic crisis in Russia brings to power a politician of the marginal nationalist views, able of uniting the nation.  Let‘s say that the will for expansion emerges and attempts are made to repay for the apparent harm and humiliations. What would the West do when actual threat arises for the Baltic States?  Would it be ready for the war with Russia and defend the Baltic States?  Nobody knows the answer to this question. And nobody knows on whether Russia governed by nationalists would dare to start the war with the EU and NATO.

But let‘s return to Lithuania‘s relations with the current Russia. Unfortunately, the more time passes, the less we know about this country. Our primitive nationalism, adoration of our supposed immensity – the Great Duchy of Lithuania – prevents from detecting the current realia. It is difficult to understand why representatives of the Lithuanian media still don’t have their offices in Moscow, why Lithuania has only few experts of the Russian policy who could objectively comment deep processes in the neighboring country.

This lack of interest is obvious also concerning Poland.  The so called „Polish card“ went down like a lead balloon in Vilnius. If any of the „Lithuanian cards“ is extended to the Lithuanians of Suvalkai, Warsaw‘s response would be very firm.

In the 20th century Lithuania got independence twice. Once it lost independence shamefully (in comparison to the Finish resistance against USSR). By ignoring the neighbors and living in the world of illusions we can again loose our independence. Surely, I do not suggest kneeling down to V.Putin‘s Russia. But Lithuania must finally pursue coherent policy towards this country.

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