NATO summit host Lithuania is a small country with a loud voice, especially when it comes to Russia

by Gabriel Martinez
NATO summit

Lithuania, the host of the NATO summit, is a small nation that possesses a strong voice, particularly concerning Russia.

In the business district of Vilnius, amidst the towering skyscrapers, a pair of vibrant children’s scooters leans against the yellow tracks of a battle tank. The area, typically bustling with cars, cyclists, and pedestrians, is now closed off to traffic and filled with heavily armored vehicles.

Jonas Braukyla, an IT engineer, brings his family to witness the display of U.S.-made Abrams tanks, German Leopards, Marders, and other military equipment that symbolize NATO’s strength ahead of the upcoming summit. “Never before has Lithuania been this secure,” he remarks. “They are even deploying Patriot missile defenses here. Now, we must support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters, and I hope positive news will emerge from the summit.”

The two-day summit, commencing on Tuesday with the participation of U.S. President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders, marks the most significant international event hosted by Lithuania since its accession to the alliance in 2004. Some locals anticipate that it will hold historic significance.

In contrast, others hold a less optimistic outlook. Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania’s former president, expresses her skepticism, suggesting that while the Vilnius summit is crucial, it may not be historic. She doubts that the decision regarding Ukraine’s future will be precise and unequivocal.

Grybauskaite’s skepticism reflects the prevalent belief in the Baltic countries that the West, even in the wake of Russia’s largest war in Europe since World War II, fails to truly comprehend the threat that Moscow poses to the continent.

Known as the “Baltic Iron Lady” for her resolute leadership and outspokenness, particularly regarding Russia, Grybauskaite served as Lithuania’s president from 2009 to 2019, following her five-year tenure as the European Union’s budget commissioner. Even before Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, she was among the few European leaders who sounded the alarm about Russian interference in Eastern Europe.

Presently, Grybauskaite argues that many Western leaders remain grossly misinformed about the Kremlin’s true intentions and lack the necessary political will to respond effectively.

“After the occupation of Crimea, the Western reaction was sluggish, despite Russia blatantly demonstrating its ability to seize the territories of neighboring countries,” Grybauskaite stated in an interview with The Big Big News. “We attempted to convey the significance of this, but we faced criticism, ridicule, and disbelief. Today, most of them acknowledge our foresight, but that is no longer crucial. What is worrisome is that even now, they hear us but do not listen.”

She asserts that many Europeans fail to grasp the stark divergence in values between Russia and the West, dismissing the notion of finding common ground through negotiations as “delusional.”

“This is not just a war against Ukraine; it is a struggle against our entire civilization,” proclaims the 67-year-old, who recently received the Manfred Wörner Medal—an esteemed German accolade for contributions toward peace and freedom in Europe. “If Ukraine does not achieve a definitive victory on the battlefield, the West will remain in limbo. The aggressive actions against Ukraine will persist for decades to come.”

Resentment towards Moscow runs deep in Lithuania and its Baltic neighbors, Latvia and Estonia, as they endured five decades of Soviet occupation. Unlike many Western nations, they maintained skepticism about peaceful coexistence with Moscow after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

Lithuania, situated between Russia’s ally Belarus to the east and Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave to the west, is making substantial investments in its military. It plans to allocate 3% of its GDP to defense in the near future, surpassing the NATO target. NATO jets patrol its skies, and Germany has pledged to deploy approximately 4,000 troops to Lithuania permanently. Nonetheless, critics worry that this might not be sufficient to safeguard the country if the conflict extends beyond Ukraine.

Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania’s first leader after it regained independence in the early 1990s, derides suggestions of reaching an agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin concerning Ukraine.

“As long as Russia exists, there will never be such a thing as ‘after the war.’ Let us speak candidly: ‘after Russia.’ Perhaps then, the world would stand a chance,” he remarked to reporters.

Such a mindset unsettles certain NATO partners. French President Emmanuel Macron expressed earlier this year that the conflict in Ukraine must not transform into a campaign to “crush” the Russian Federation.

“I desire Russia’s defeat in Ukraine, and I want Ukraine to be capable of defending itself. However, I firmly believe that ultimately, this will not be resolved through military means,” Macron conveyed to French media during the Munich Security Conference in February. “I do not think, as some do, that Russia must be completely dismantled, attacked on its territory… That has never been France’s stance, nor will it ever be.”

The small Baltic countries rank among the leading providers of military aid to Ukraine on a per-capita basis. They are also staunch advocates for Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO, a sensitive issue within the alliance. The summit in Vilnius will address offering Ukraine a roadmap towards NATO membership, evident in the numerous blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags adorning the streets and squares for the occasion.

“The accession process must commence because waiting for a post-war scenario allows Putin to perpetually prolong this conflict,” Grybauskaite emphasized. “If we genuinely care about the security of NATO territory, Ukraine must inevitably become a part of it.”

Contributions to this report were made by Lorne Cook, a writer from Big Big News, based in Brussels.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NATO summit

What is the significance of the NATO summit hosted by Lithuania?

The NATO summit hosted by Lithuania is a highly important international event for the country since joining the alliance in 2004. It is hoped to hold historic significance and address key issues regarding Russia’s threat, Ukraine’s future, and the understanding of Western leaders.

Why is there skepticism about the West’s understanding of Russia’s threat?

Skepticism exists due to a widely held belief in the Baltic countries that the West fails to fully comprehend the threat Moscow poses to Europe, even after Russia’s significant military actions. This skepticism stems from the perceived slow reaction and lack of political will from Western leaders to respond effectively.

How does Lithuania view the situation in Ukraine?

Lithuania, along with its Baltic neighbors, maintains a strong stance of support for Ukraine. They are among the top contributors of military aid to Ukraine and advocate for Ukraine’s inclusion in NATO. Lithuania sees Ukraine’s success and security as crucial for the overall stability of the NATO territory.

What measures has Lithuania taken to enhance its defense?

Lithuania has made substantial investments in its military, exceeding the NATO target by allocating 3% of its GDP to defense. NATO jets patrol its skies, and Germany has pledged a permanent deployment of around 4,000 troops in Lithuania. However, concerns remain about the country’s defense capability if the conflict extends beyond Ukraine.

What is the perspective on negotiations with Russia over Ukraine?

Some leaders, like France’s President Emmanuel Macron, believe that the conflict in Ukraine should not be resolved through military means and emphasize the importance of dialogue. However, figures like Dalia Grybauskaite, Lithuania’s former president, dismiss negotiations as delusions and stress the need to confront Russia’s actions firmly.

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JohnDoe24 July 8, 2023 - 9:35 am

hey, this is some imp info about the nato summit in lituania! gr8 to see them hosting such a big event. i hope it brings good news 4 ukraine. but yea, there r still ppl who dont get how bad russia is. we need 2 b tough on them!

TomSmith July 8, 2023 - 12:48 pm

i love how Lithuania supports Ukraine and wants them in NATO. it shows solidarity and a commitment to security. but will negotiations with Russia really work? Grybauskaite says no way! we need to stay strong and protect our civilization.

Emily87 July 8, 2023 - 1:41 pm

wow, Lithuania seems so excited about the summit, hope it’s a big deal! but some ppl r not so sure, like Grybauskaite. i guess they don’t trust the west to understand russia’s danger. i think it’s important to listen to their concerns and take action.

MarkG July 8, 2023 - 7:37 pm

Macron’s view on negotiations with Russia is interesting. maybe there’s a chance for a peaceful resolution? but Grybauskaite doesn’t believe it. she’s tough and thinks we should stand up to Russia. it’s a complex situation for sure.

Sara_J July 8, 2023 - 9:34 pm

it’s sad that Baltic countries still have this fear of Russia after so many years. they’ve been through a lot. i hope the summit brings reassurance and unity. Lithuania is really investing in defense, that’s a good move!


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