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