Baltic States’ anx­i­ety will linger as long as Rus­sia flexes out its mus­cles

The Baltic Times - - COMMENTARY - Maria ra­bi­novich

Ahead of the Baltic States’ cel­e­bra­tions of the 27th an­niver­saries of the restora­tion of in­de­pen­dence, in Cen­tral Li­brary in Brook­lyn, NYC, Pro­fes­sor Vy­tau­tas Lands­ber­gis, the first Head of State of in­de­pen­dent Lithua­nia and for­mer Mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, Ja­nis Mazeiks, the Am­bas­sador Ex­tra­or­di­nary and Plenipo­ten­tiary of the Repub­lic of Latvia to the United Na­tions, and Karl Al­tau, the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the Joint Baltic Amer­i­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion in the Baltics in the face of Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sion in Ukraine and Putin’s geopo­lit­i­cal po­si­tion.

Mr. Mazeiks took a calm ap­proach, as the United States as­sured NATO of its sup­port, and Latvia has boosted its mil­i­tary de­fenses. There are more “boots on the ground” than ever be­fore, and the size of the air force fleet was quadru­pled, he noted.

“Rus­sia may seem to be a hos­tile neigh­bor, but not im­mi­nently dan­ger­ous,” he em­pha­sized.

Pro­fes­sor Lands­ber­gis had a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. The cur­rent Rus­sian lead­er­ship, he con­sid­ers, has the men­tal­ity from the past, as far back as the czarist past, as it el­e­vates the idea of Rus­sia’s supremacy.

In the 1990’s, the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the Rus­sian em­pire was a great tragedy for those cur­rently in power in Rus­sia, and the per­spec­tive in Moscow is “what was lost should be re­claimed.” Yet, the ques­tion re­mains whether “what was lost” was theirs in the first place, he be­lieves. The Soviet satel­lites had com­mu­nism hoisted upon them, so the col­lapse of the prison is not a tragedy for the pris­on­ers, but may be a tragedy for the prison guards.

“This gives rise to the sen­ti­ment of re­venge and de­spair in the Rus­sian gov­ern­ing cir­cles, pos­si­bly push­ing Rus­sia into des­per­ate ac­tions,” Lands­ber­gis noted.

With Crimea and the in­va­sion of Ukraine, Rus­sians are con­duct­ing an exam about strength and con­sis­tency, and we, ac­cord­ing to Lands­ber­gis, have to be able to stand our ground and not al­low the op­pres­sor to dic­tate the rules.

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Lands­ber­gis, we need to be wary of mak­ing con­ces­sions.

“Moscow does not be­lieve in the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion, non-ag­gres­sion, and Rus­sia is test­ing the wa­ters. Rus­sia views any lack of op­po­si­tion as a weak­ness, an op­por­tu­nity,” he un­der­scored.

In his opin­ion, the West can­not stand by and hope that by tak­ing Crimea, Rus­sia’s ex­pan­sion­ist ap­petite will be sa­ti­ated.

“His­tory bru­tally demon­strated that the pol­icy of ap­pease­ment to­wards Hitler did lit­tle to pre­vent WWII. Un­for­tu­nately, to­day the United Na­tions has no au­thor­ity to stop big wars or ex­pan­sion­ist trends of dic­ta­tors. It is up to var­i­ous al­liances to band to­gether and cur­tail Rus­sia’s des­per­ate ac­tions to re­claim the “em­pire” and re-es­tab­lish their “great­ness”. The Western world should not be sub­ject to the game of “Rus­sian Roulette.” Per­haps that is also why Swe­den has rein­tro­duced mil­i­tary con­scrip­tion,” Lands­ber­gis ac­cen­tu­ated.

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