2023.07.15

Andrius Kubilius. The Sobering-Up in Vilnius

Andrius Kubilius is a former PM of Lithuania, MEP, Initiator of the “United for Ukraine” network

(The Lithuanian version of the article was published on 15.07.2023)

The NATO festival  in Lithuania is over. That’s how many of us saw the NATO Summit – as a NATO celebration in Vilnius. Both those of us who were lucky enough to see it up close and those of us who watched it from the distances of Brussels or Strasbourg. Lithuania made sure that the celebration was well and efficiently organised, citizens made sure that they demonstrated how important Ukraine is to Lithuania and to the World. All Ukrainians, from journalists to politicians, with whom I have had the opportunity to interact these days, thank Lithuania for this. We did well!

Although, it is us and all the Europeans who have to thank Ukraine first of all. For its struggles and sacrifices made not only for its own freedom and security, but for the freedom and security of all of us.

However, celebrations tend to end. Then it is time to ask ourselves: what is the legacy of that celebration?

Unfortunately, when searching for an answer to such a question, there is less festive mood after the Summit. And especially because of the decisions (or non-decisions) taken at the Summit regarding Ukraine.

I will not repeat my praise for the decisions announced at the Summit (not on Ukraine), both on the completely new quality of the NATO regional defence plans and on the agreement between Sweden and Turkey. It is good that this was announced in Vilnius, but it had little to do with the Summit itself.

It is also good that Ukraine’s NATO membership has gained strong momentum during the last six months before the Vilnius Summit, and it seems that Ukraine has moved strongly along this path. It is good that the Summit itself was full of speeches and pledges to continue to support Ukraine with arms, but it is bad that the West did not dare to use the Vilnius Summit to send a strong geopolitical signal, in particular, to Russia, by taking a formal decision in Vilnius to invite Ukraine to become a NATO member.

Ukraine not only needs long-range military weapons from the West, it also needs long-range geopolitical weapons. And they are all in the hands of the West. I will repeat what I have said more than once: Ukraine’s invitation to become a member of NATO is necessary not only for the sake of Ukraine’s security, but also for the sake of the West’s message to the Kremlin elite and to ordinary Russians: forget your dreams of rebuilding the empire; Ukraine is no longer available for imperial nostalgia; there is no longer any point in continuing the imperial colonial war.

Inviting Ukraine would be the first step to demonstrate that the West is boldly embracing Brzezinski’s doctrine that Russia has a chance to become a democracy without Ukraine, and that Russia will always remain an empire as long as the West allows Russia to keep Ukraine in so called  zone of its interests. Moreover, in Vilnius, the West had the opportunity to show that it has already realised its fundamental geopolitical mistake of the last decades: Ukraine has been left in a “grey security zone” since the 1990s, with no possibility of becoming a member of either NATO or the EU, and this is what prompted Putin to resort to aggression. Vilnius was an opportunity for the West to start correcting this geopolitical mistake, which no amount of arms supplies, not even the largest, can cover. And yet this geopolitical mistake will have to be corrected by the West, sooner rather than later. Or never.

What is disappointing is not only the fact of the non-invitation  itself, but the way in which, through the efforts of Western leaders, this non-invitation has been superficially identified and explained – without even attempting to look for any serious substantive or geopolitical arguments.

What has disappointed me most in this Ukrainian affair is the indifference of the text and the comments on the non-invitation of Ukraine.

The text of the communiqué on Ukraine’s NATO membership, published in Vilnius, repeats almost word for word the wording of the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit’s non-invitation, reiterating that Ukraine’s future is with NATO. This future was also promised in Bucharest, but it has never become a reality. Putin understood this as the West agreeing to leave Ukraine and Georgia in the Kremlin’s zone of interests. To the disappointing phrase from Bucharest, repeated in Vilnius, was added the sentence from the North Atlantic Treaty that Ukraine would be invited to become a member of NATO when all the countries agreed to it. It is as if someone does not know that Treaty provision on the consensus.

It was also casually stated that Ukraine must improve democracy and the fight against corruption, because this is also the basis on which it will be judged as to whether it can become a NATO member. One should imply that, by such standards, Ukraine is still a long way from Albania, Montenegro or North Macedonia, which became NATO members not so long ago. To those who know a little more about the failures of these countries, both in democracy and in the fight against corruption, such conditions for Ukraine announced in Vilnius sound like a completely lax excuse from the West as to why Ukraine in Vilnius has not yet been invited.

It is also worth remembering that Portugal was one of the founding members of NATO in 1949, even though it was ruled from 1932 to 1968 by the same authoritarian and dictatorial leader, Antonio Salazar. Greece, a member of NATO since 1952, lived without any democracy after the “colonels” coup from 1967 to 1974, but its NATO membership was not suspended.

So much for the solidity of the additional “democracy and anti-corruption” conditions announced for Ukraine.

Of course, equally surprising was the argument made in Vilnius that Ukraine could not be invited to join NATO while the war was going on. It is obvious to everyone, and has been repeated over and over again by Mr Zelensky himself, that Ukraine will not become a member of NATO while the war is still going on. But why Ukraine cannot be invited to become a member of NATO now, while the war is still going on, remains completely unclear.

After all, the example of Sweden has already made it clear that there can be quite a long time between a formal invitation and the real membership. For Ukraine, Ukraine could have been  invited, but also been presented a condition that the ratification of the accession treaty would start not now, while the war is still going on, but when it is assessed that the circumstances of the war no longer prevent it. There are two separate geopolitically important steps in the process of becoming a NATO member: (1) the invitation to become a member of NATO, and (2) becoming a member of NATO. Each of them sends a strong political signal on its own and can be separated in time. Vilnius Summit could have sent the first signal – an invitation – distinctly from the membership. However, for some reason Western leaders ran away from the possibility of inviting Ukraine to join already in Vilnius, citing the threat of World War III if Ukraine became a NATO member during the war. Despite that no one (not even Ukraine) offered or asked for such membership during the war.

Thus, there were no serious business arguments for not inviting Ukraine. It was simply a missed opportunity to do so. And then the question is: why? Why did Germany and, in particular, the US resist to extend such an invitation? What factor accounts for their cautious or geopolitically unwise approach?

If there is no serious explanation that Ukraine still does not meet some of the NATO criteria, then one must inevitably conclude that the only such serious factor in why Ukraine still has not received an invitation, and about which one dare not go public, is the “Putin factor” and its impact on Western geopolitical thinking. Some in the West may still feel that Putin has a veto right over NATO enlargement in his own sphere of interest (which he clearly had in the Western mind in Bucharest in 2008 and had been holding there until 24 February 2022). Some may fear that such a NATO decision would escalate the military situation and provoke an unpredictable response from Putin (although the West’s geopolitical weakness and the still ongoing non-invitation of Ukraine is precisely what provoked Putin’s current aggression); some may fear that inviting Ukraine to join NATO could bring down the already weak Putin regime and bring some prigozhins to power (although why the West should care about Putin’s survival and why Putin is better than Prigozhin remains completely unclear).

In any case, it is clear that the “Putin factor” still plays an important role in Western thinking. It may be diminishing, but it is still important. This is what the non-invitation of Ukraine at the Vilnius Summit reveals. This is the moment of “Vilnius Sobering-up”: the West must have a clear strategy with regard to the “Putin factor”, that is to say, it must have a clear strategy as to what kind of Russia’s future the West expects to be after Ukraine wins the war. After that the invitation to Ukraine will no longer scare some Western capitals.

A wise and courageous Western policy towards Ukraine is the only way in which the West can also help Russia to transform itself into a normal type of state. This requires the West to believe that Russia, too, can say goodbye to the “Putin factor”; to believe that democracy is also possible in Russia, and that, after Ukraine defeats Russia on the military front, a window of opportunity will open up for such a transformation of Russia. Only by believing in such a possibility will the West no longer fear Ukraine’s crushing victory (and give it the weapons it needs to do so), nor Ukraine’s NATO membership (and invite it to join the Alliance), nor Ukraine’s becoming a member of the EU, thus creating economic success for Ukraine. It is those Western leaders who still do not believe in Russia’s ability to transform itself are afraid of the “Putin factor” and do not dare to invite Ukraine to join NATO. Those who believe in such a possibility are no longer afraid of the “Putin factor”. And they are no longer afraid to invite Ukraine.

This is the essence of the “Vilnius Sobering-up”: not only are we facing new challenges on Ukraine’s path to NATO; we are also facing new challenges on Russia’s transformation path. These two are intrinsically interlinked, and it is our duty to address them both at the same time. For the sake of Ukraine and for the sake of a different Russia. It is also our duty to explain this constantly and loudly throughout the West, with the help of all like-minded people. Otherwise, the West and NATO will continue to tread in our region between the fine words constantly repeated in Budapest, Bucharest and Vilnius about security guarantees and future memberships, but without distancing themselves from the “Putin factor”, thereby losing more and more of their geopolitical credibility.

When “sobering-up” and “awakening” occur in geopolitics, it is also an awakening from the nice, but empty words and one simply does not want to hear them any more.

It is always worth hoping that, after the NATO Summit, it was not only Vilnius that had a “Vilnius Sobering-up” moment, but also Washington and Berlin.

2022.07.06

A. Kubilius. Ukraine: Our next steps

It has been more than 130 days since Russia’s war against Ukraine began. Ukraine has shown that it is able to defend itself and win the war, too, with the assistance from the EU and the international community. However, the war can be protracted. Ukraine and the EU need to prepare for such a scenario.

In the last few weeks, the EU made a historical decision to grant Ukraine the EU candidate status. Integration of Ukraine towards the EU will have very important geopolitical consequences both for Ukraine and the whole European continent. 

It is crucial that EU has a clear understanding of and a strategy for what needs to be done next in order to keep assisting Ukraine on the highest level, how and for what purposes we need to mobilize our efforts. There are some ideas, which will help better understand what will be the most important next steps. 

I. UKRAINE’S INTEGRATION: WHAT’S NEXT?

1. What is the next key EU decision on Ukraine’s further integration?

The decision to open negotiations with Ukraine. It is important that such negotiations start as early as 2023, ideally in the first half of 2023.

To achieve this, it is essential that the European Commission delivers a positive assessment of Ukraine at the end of this year in its Opinion on applicant countries/Enlargement report for Ukraine (as foreseen in the Council Conclusions). In this report, the Commission will take into account the progress made by Ukraine on the seven ‘understandables’ that were identified in the Opinion. Ukraine must by then demonstrate that it has met all the conditions that were indicated in the Opinion. After that the Council should approve the Enlargement report for Ukraine and decide on further steps, including on beginning of negotiations with Ukraine.

2. When can Ukraine’s EU membership negotiations be concluded and when can Ukraine become an EU member?

It is possible to achieve the conclusion of Ukraine’s membership negotiations in 2027-2028 and EU membership in 2029, at the time of the election of the new European Parliament and the formation of the new European Commission.

This assessment of possible dates is based on comparisons with the “big-bang enlargement” of the EU to Central Europe and the Baltic States. In that case real negotiations took 3 (Lithuanian example) or 4 years (Polish example). Negotiations with Lithuania started in 1999, with Poland in 1998; both countries ended the negotiations in 2002, together with other 8 countries from the region. Then it took another two years to prepare and ratify the Treaty. Finally, in 2004 all ten countries successfully became EU members.

3. What is needed to ensure that negotiations with Ukraine move as swiftly as they did in the 1990s during the “big bang enlargement” and not as slowly as they have been since 2003 with the Western Balkans?

For negotiations with Ukraine to proceed rapidly, the EU needs to fundamentally renew its enlargement philosophy:

(a) Ukraine’s accession to the EU is not only necessary for Ukraine, but also for the EU. The eastward expansion of democracy, stability and economic success is in the EU’s interest because it is the only way to achieve a democratic transformation in Russia;

(b) A return to effective enlargement should begin with 1) an analysis of the mistakes and failures of the EU’s enlargement policy of the last decades and 2) the implementation of the following reforms based on that analysis:

1. EU enlargement cannot be halted by the Kremlin’s blackmail and intimidation, as was the case with Ukraine after 2014;

2. EU’s future enlargement must accelerate institutional and decision-making reforms within the EU, so that they are not an obstacle to further enlargement;

3. EU member states cannot use their veto right to block EU enlargement to their immediate neighbors with whom they have historical problems;

4. The EU must regain its “hunger for enlargement”, as Ukraine’s membership will strengthen the EU, not weaken it;

5. Ukraine’s geopolitical weight will propel the whole EU enlargement process forward, which will also benefit Moldova and Georgia as well as the Western Balkans, whose integration process so far has been stalling.

4. Why should Ukraine focus on its integration into the Single Market first?

Ukraine could choose to prioritise integration into the EU’s Single Market first, as integration into the Single Market would guarantee immediate access to the maximum economic benefits of becoming an EU member. This stage of the integration process can be completed before the EU institutions undergo the necessary reforms.

5. What is needed so that the political will of the EU to expand into Ukraine would be firm and long-lasting?

A like-minded “Ukraine Coalition” needs to be formed among the EU Member States. It should first consist of those countries which already show strong support for Ukraine’s integration and which will hold the Presidency of the Council of the EU in the next decade: the Czech Republic (2022), Sweden (2023), Denmark (2025), Poland (2025), Lithuania (2027), Italy (2028), Latvia (2028).

This coalition should become the core of the Process similar to the so-called “Berlin Process” that was set up at the initiative of Germany to support the integration of the Western Balkans.

6. Will the war disrupt Ukraine’s integration?

The war has already had devastating impact on the Ukrainian economy. Yet, at the same time, it has radically increased EU’s will for decisive geopolitical action: Putin’s threats about EU enlargement no longer have any effect. Not only are they not stopping EU’s enlargement, on the contrary, they give it a geopolitical boost.

The EU’s multi-billion dollar plan for Ukraine’s restoration and reconstruction (the Marshall Plan for Ukraine) will be closely linked to Ukraine’s integration and accession negotiation process and will only accelerate the integration process.

7. How will Ukraine’s membership benefit the EU?

Ukraine is a rich country with a huge but untapped economic potential, a developed industrial sector and a highly skilled workforce. Ukraine’s membership would significantly strengthen the economic power of our Union.

Integration into the EU is the only way in which the success of a democratic state can be established in a post-Soviet, post-totalitarian space. Ukrainian success would send a strong signal to the citizens of Belarus and Russia that they should seek the same changes. Such a development would guarantee lasting peace on the European continent. Peace is the primary interest of the EU.

8. Can we expect that Ukraine will implement the necessary reforms?

At the time of the “big-bang enlargement” to Central Europe and the Baltic States until 2004, the EU enlargement process had enormous transformative power for the candidate countries; they were in a hurry to implement reforms and to keep up with each other’s progress.

Meanwhile, the enlargement process in the Western Balkans after 2003 lost its transformative power – candidate countries lost motivation for reforms and faith in the enlargement process itself. The EU enlargement became a symbol of EU’s geopolitical failure.

Ukraine has made significant progress in adopting the EU acquis since 2014 with the support of the SGUA (Support Group for Ukraine). If the whole enlargement process regains its initial ambition and transformative power, Ukraine is likely to be among the fastest candidate countries to implement the necessary reforms.

II. SURVIVAL OF UKRAINE: WHAT DOES UKRAINE NEED NOW?

In order for Ukraine and EU to successfully implement the long term and ambitious Ukraine integration agenda, Ukraine needs to, first, survive the war, then win the war, and, finally, to receive immediate and long term assistance for reconstruction. There are steps that need to be taken now, looking at middle and long-term perspective. 

1. What type of EU assistance is crucial if the war will not end in 2022?

The EU needs to move from momentary decisions on weapon deliveries or EU financial support (which were needed at the beginning of the war) to creation of systemic, middle to long term instruments of assistance, which would operate during the whole period of war.

2. How to estimate the long term needs of weapon deliveries to Ukraine? What is the current status of EU assistance?

The immediate deliveries of weapons, including heavy weaponry, is essential for Ukraine’s continued resistance against Russia’s brutal aggression. Yet up to now, weapon deliveries have been based only on capabilities of individual Member States, to give weapons from their individual defense stock.

It was an effective system at the very beginning of the war. However, at this stage a permanent, stable and sufficient system of weapon deliveries needs to be established. This weapon delivery system needs to be based on a clear financial mechanism to support such deliveries.

According to expert evaluation, each day Ukraine spends or loses military equipment with a value of nearly 400 million euros. If this trend continues, by the end of 2022 the total cost of financing the needs for military equipment will reach more than 100 billion euros.

The US has already decided to provide Ukraine with more than 30 billion euros worth of military assistance, while the EU has promised only 2 billion euros for military equipment needs financed through the European Peace Facility. The EU needs to substantially increase the funding under the European Peace Facility instrument for purchasing military equipment produced by EU military industry that will then be sent to Ukraine.

3. How to finance the survival of Ukrainian state during the war period? 

Besides weapon deliveries, Ukraine needs permanent and stable financial assistance to finance regular public expenditures: salaries to the teachers and soldiers, pensions, etc. With the economy totally destroyed by the war, Ukraine needs a clear long term system of international assistance.

The IMF and Ukrainian Government estimations show that Ukraine needs external financial assistance of 5-7 billion euros monthly. 

The decision of the European Council to make available exceptional additional Macro-Financial Assistance of up to EUR 9 billion in 2022 is important, but it covers Ukraine’s needs for 1.5 month. The recent decision of the G7 to provide Ukraine with 29.5 billion dollars in budgetary aid is crucial for the rest of 2022. However, if the war continues, Ukraine will need additional 80-100 billion euros of budgetary aid in 2023. A long-term financial support system for such assistance has yet to be gathered. 

The EU together with the international community must urgently develop a long-term financial support system that would fund Ukraine’s public needs during Russia’s war of aggression. Such a system is especially crucial if the war extends into 2023 and beyond.

4. How to finance Ukraine’s long-term reconstruction?

As demonstrated in the statements of the European Council and the European Commission (published respectively on 31 May 2022 and 18 May 2022), the EU is committed to provide both short-term financial relief and is preparing for a comprehensive, long-term reconstruction of Ukraine effort with international partners.

The European Council on 31 May 2022 and the Commission Communication on 18 May 2022 on Relief and Reconstruction made a clear commitment to provide both short-term financial relief and preparations for a comprehensive, long-term reconstruction of Ukraine effort with international partners.

As indicated in the Commission’s Communication of 18 May on Relief and Reconstruction, Ukraine’s reconstruction will require a multibillion amount of funds. Experts estimate that long term reconstruction efforts will cost from 500 billion up to 1 trillion euros. 

The European Commission proposed to establish the ‘Rebuilding Ukraine’ facility. This financing instrument will include funds received from seized or sanctioned Russian assets, loans, grants, and other sources. In this context, understanding the limits of different financing instruments, the European Commission additionally proposed to develop an adequate EU borrowing capacity to raise the funds for loans on behalf of the EU or with Member States’ national guarantees. This proposal by the Commission has to be addressed urgently by the Council. The European Parliament must act fast in order to mobilize political support for such an instrument.

5. How to rebuild infrastructure in Irpen before winter comes? 

Some reconstruction needs are extremely urgent: in some Ukrainian cities crucial infrastructure or apartment buildings were severely damaged or destroyed by the Russian military. This infrastructure needs to be rebuilt before the heating season begins in late fall.

Local communities in heavily damaged territories are looking for very quick assistance from the EU, Member States or sister cities. The dynamic community leadership of the heavily destroyed city of Irpen shows a good example of the grass-root approach. Now the EU needs to respond properly and effectively.

The peer-to-peer cooperation among cities and regions, as well as cooperation with health and education establishments in the EU and Ukraine is an important instrument in reconstruction efforts. Such cooperation has to be coordinated well by the EU to provide a unique, decentralized ownership over reconstruction needs to local communities. The EU is also a crucial agent in providing a diverse pool of expertise, resources and people-to-people contacts at the disposal of the reconstruction process. In particular, the EU should develop a patronage system for immediate humanitarian and reconstruction aid within the proposed framework of assistance.

Andrius Kubilius, MEP, former Prime Minister, Lithuania

2021.07.11

Statement on recent events in Georgia

Georgia is at a very serious crossroads which will define her development and success or failure for nearest decades. Majority of Georgians have  already chosen firmly and long ago the European development and European values. However, there are  forces at work, which work to impede Georgia’s progress on this path and reverse it.

The recent developments in Georgia, when 53 journalists were targeted and beaten at a rally opposing the called-off Tbilisi March for Dignity is one of such efforts.

We are saddened to learn about the death of one of the injured media workers Mr  Lekso Lashkarava. The death of Mr Lashkarava and staggering inaction of police in face of the violent attacks need to be fully and impartially investigated.We call on all members of society to demonstrate calm and restraint, not to fall for provocations. All  political powers in Georgia, especially the ruling party, should work towards ensuring that the European values are respected.

Values of freedom of media and freedom of expression are the European values and must be upheld and protected.

Andrius Kubilius, MEP, The Co-Chairman of Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

Rasa Juknevičienė, A Vice-chair of DSCA delegation in EP

2021.07.01

A. Kubilius. Belarus, not Mr Lukashenko, is the EU partner in the Eastern Partnership initiative

Illegitimate Mr Lukashenko has forged the elections and became an usurpator of power in Belarus.

The regime of Lukashenko is trying continuously and desperately to hold onto power by using repressions against the innocent Belarusians and by committing terroristic acts, fear-mongering, using mass propaganda and threats.

The decisions of Mr Lukashenko from the point of view of international law are null and void.

The recent statement of the Lukashenko regime on the so-called suspension of Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership means the only thing: the dictator Lukashenko might be leaving the Eastern Partnership initiative, however neither he nor his illegitimate regime is in a position to remove Belarus from the EU Eastern Partnership policy and programmes.

Decisions of the illegitimate regime have no legal consequences. For the EU, its member states and institutions, Belarus remains the partner in the Eastern Partnership initiative. Similarly, any further decisions of Mr Lukashenko or his regime regarding Belarus will be null and void.

The decisions on the future of Belarus are in the hands of the people of Belarus. Only the people of Belarus by means of free and democratic elections can choose the path for their country.

We expect that the dictator Lukashenko will soon make one last right decision to leave Belarus. The international community and the EU in particular stands with the people of Belarus and is ready to assist them in a peaceful transition of power via democratic and free elections.

The European Parliament underlines that Belarus remains in the Eastern Partnership initiative and is ready to increase engagement with the democratic forces of Belarus. In the same spirit, the leaders of the democratic Belarus should be officially invited to represent Belarus in the forthcoming Eastern Partnership Summit, which will be held in Brussels in December 2021. The illegitimate declarations of the usurpator Lukashenko will have no impact on the status of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership initiative.

Andrius Kubilius, MEP

The Co-President of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

2020.07.10

Rasa Juknevičienė: what does Putin‘s aspiration to return ‘the sun of Stalin’ into Russian politics mean?

Having reappeared from self-isolation spent in one of his bunkers, Vladimir Putin has once again returned to World War II affairs after last December focussing on history, re-introducing Stalinist arguments and rhetoric into the Russian narrative about the war.

At the end of June, the Moscow military parade took place despite the pandemic. Putin‘s article in the US media (controlled by people close to the Kremlin), along with his statement regarding soviet republics left the Soviet Union with gifts, that is, territories that the Soviet Union supposedly gave away, has reminded the public about Putin‘s role as a historian and his imperial ambitions.

Many are wondering if this is only a spectacle dedicated to Russia‘s internal politics, or if Putin has a more serious plan for the final stage of his political life. Whom was Putin referring to when he spoke of territorial gifts – Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states? The widely advertised statement about territorial claims is forcing observers to think hard about this. The Stalinist interpretations of history make a comeback in the president’s article titled ‘The Real Lessons of the 75th Anniversary of World War II’, but it is not accurate to claim that this amounts to the rewriting the history, as Putin is not rewriting the history of World War II. Rather, he brings back the soviet interpretation of it. It was present up until 1989 when USSR congress of deputies acknowledged and condemned Ribbentrop-Molotov secret protocols, followed by the by the 1991 the signing of an agreement between Boris Yeltsin and Vytautas Landsbergis, acknowledging the annexation that took place in 1940 – an agreement that is still in force. There is also a paragraph in Putin’s article mentioning that Baltic states voluntarily incorporated themselves into USSR, and lived happily ever after while also nurturing their language and traditions also as part of the USSR. Such an official text by the President of the Russian Federation about the Baltic states saw the light of day of for the first since the collapse of the USSR:
”In the autumn of 1939, the Soviet Union, while pursuing its strategic and defence objectives, started incorporating Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Their accession to the USSR was implemented on an agreement basis and with the support of the elected governments, and the process took place based on international and domestic law. In addition, in October of 1939, the city of Vilnius and the surrounding territory, which was previously part of Poland, were returned to Lithuania. The Baltic states, while part of the USSR, retained their national institutions, language, and were represented in the Soviet Union‘s upper state structures.“ writes Putin.

A proposal was presented parallel to Russia‘s parliament (Duma) to acknowledge the 1989 December 24th Soviet Union‘s Council of People deputy council decision as invalid. The decision condemns the signing of the 1939 Soviet and German non-aggression pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. The main force of the Kremlin‘s propaganda apparatus is again energetically mentioning ’Pribaltika’ (the Baltic states) in the same fashion as Ukraine. Watching this on the sidelines, there are genuine questions about whether this is actually a narrative merely for the purpose of mobilising the Russian people ahead of the referendum on the amendment to the Constitution, or whether there is something deeper going on. I cannot discount the possibility that the plan is broader than that, considering that after his speech in 2007 in Munich, he marched into Ukraine and other places. Putin has his political life plan. It is possible that the plan, if it has its beginnings somewhere in Belarus or Kazakhstan, may give completely opposite results than expected, which happened in Ukraine when Putin‘s aggression pushed Ukrainians towards Europe.

Yes, Putin’s main goal is to retain the current aggressiveness of the regime at any cost. That is what the new constitution, together with the charade involving supposed voting, is meant for. However, we will also shortly see what the elevation of Stalin‘s politics and signals about the alleged ‘gifted territories’ means. The longing for the USSR did not appear recently. The first step was the return of the USSR hymn when V.Putin won the almost democratic elections in the year 2000. That was already a sign. This was followed by the destruction of the democratic process within the country and the famous speech in Munich, where the entire world was told that the USSR collapse was the ‘biggest tragedy of the 20th century’. There his plan was openly voiced, stating the Putin’s Russian will not follow either Western nor European path. The speech was aggressive. However, not everyone understood it. This was followed by aggression against Sakartvelo (Georgia). Still, this was not taken seriously. Then came the time for war against Ukraine. If we look at the wider map, instead of the old USSR one, we can clearly see the resurgence of priorities of the USSR period in the current Russian politics – Syria, Venezuela, energy and political war in the African states, and activities in Libya. This is why I cannot discount the current rhetoric as being just for the purpose of reigniting the trust in Putin solely inside the country.

By assessing Russian propaganda, we can see that there is an expectation that the US will become weaker. Tensions on both sides of the Atlantic are giving the Kremlin hope that in the near future, hands will be freer to tie down the lost USSR territories. When working in the government between 2008 and 2012 and leading the Ministry of National Defence, I had the opportunity to look in-depth into intelligence data and talk directly with our allies. Right after the activities against Georgia, the Kremlin started rapidly modernising its forces close to our borders. At that time, in cooperation with various high-ranking officers from the US, we considered both sides of the argument that Putin will seek to expand his territories. Maidan hadn’t happened at that point, Crimea was not annexed, and many in the West were still asleep and hopeful that a friendly relationship with Putin would ensue. However, Ukraine changed the Kremlin’s plans. Everything was different. Viktor Yanukovych was supposed to guarantee the merging of Ukraine with Russia, the West was supposed to keep sleeping, and the new NATO members were supposed to remain members only on paper. After an adventure gone awry in East Ukraine, Putin is attempting to return to the same dreams about the once-glorious USSR. It is already clear that the imperial calculations are faulty, and the result will be a failure. The only question is how many disasters will Putin‘s dreams bring about, and whether there will be anyone with some semblance of a mind in the Kremlin to stop these possibly bloody contemporary dreams of a so-called Russian emperor?

2019.07.08

Lithuania sends 6 newcomers to European Parliament – key priorities

Lithuania is sending six newcomers to the European Parliament following the 2019 election. Many of them, however, will be joining the other five, established delegates.

On the eighth floor, Liudas Mažylis is part of the European People’s Party (EPP), and will work in Environment, Public Health and Food Safety committee.

More: https://www.lrt.lt/en/news-in-english/19/1076462/lithuania-sends-6-newcomers-to-european-parliament-key-priorities

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