Andrius Kubilius. On the Reality of War

We all know that this year Ukraine is finding it harder to liberate its occupied territories than last year. Increasingly, there are warnings (from the Ukrainian General V.Zaluzhnyi to the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis) that the war could become a war of entrenchment, which only benefits Russia. On this occasion, there are attempts in various corners of the West to persuade that the only way to avoid the stagnation of trench warfare is to negotiate peace with Russia on Putin’s terms.

Many in the World are worried by such facts that the US Congress is unable to approve a new package of financial support for Ukraine. In addition, the US presidential elections are approaching, where D.Trump may win. It is impossible to predict the impact of this on the further course of the war. And then there is Hungary, which also makes the EU’s decision-making on support for Ukraine unpredictable.

It is against this backdrop that it is worth looking for fundamental answers as to why the frontline in Ukraine is stagnating, even though the West proclaims that it has provided Ukraine with a lot of military support, which should be sufficient to achieve victory. Even the F-16s are about to arrive.

Increasingly, one can hear hints in the West that the West is “tired” or is “about to be tired” of supporting Ukraine because the frontline is stalled. North Korea is capable of finding a million artillery shells for Russia in a month, but the European Union cannot do it in a year. Meanwhile, General Zaluzhnyi is not asking the West for tanks or artillery (which the West has supplied for as long as it has them in its warehouses, because Western military industry is still unable to increase production), but for drones, electronic anti-drones or radars, which the Ukrainians could produce themselves if they were given the funding.

The fundamental question thus arises: why is it that the West, while supporting Ukraine, has not been able to achieve a fundamental breakthrough in Ukraine’s war of liberation against Russia? After all, the West is economically tens of times stronger than Russia, and as history tells us, wars are always won in the end by stronger economies. This has always been the case. Why are we still not seeing that this time?

To understand the essence of the problem, we need to look in some detail at the “war finance” situation of Russia, Ukraine and the West. Accounting is not only important for the state budget, but also for military affairs.

So here are some important figures.

First of all, on the economic potential of Russia and the West: in 2022, Russia’s GDP was USD 1,8 trillion. The European Union’s GDP was USD 18,35 trillion and the USA’s USD 26,23 trillion. So, the EU alone has 10 times the economic potential of Russia, and if you add up the EU and US figures, the gap between the major Western powers and Russia is up to 25 times.

The West is 25 times economically stronger than Russia! According to the simple historical and economic logic of the wars, Russia should have been crushed in Ukraine long ago. But, as we can see, this is not yet the case. Why?

Therefore, it is worth taking a closer look at the bookkeeping of “war finance”: how much money does Russia, Ukraine and the West contribute to the financing of the war?

When looking at the Russian data, it is noticeable that the figures published in various expert publications or in the World Bank statistics vary quite significantly, because since the beginning of the war the Russian authorities have classified the financial statistics. Thus, the World Bank announces that in 2022 Russia will have spent USD 86 billion on military expenditure, while experts at Sweden’s SIPRI Institute put the figure at USD 61 billion. The Wilson Center puts the figure at USD 81,7 billion. The figures for 2023 vary even more: between 80 billion USD (SIPRI) and 120 billion USD (Wilson Center) for 2023. The Wilson Center also states that Russia’s “war costs” do not include all the costs of the war, as they exclude the treatment of the wounded and many other costs (which, if included, would bring Russia’s costs in 2023 up to USD 160 billion). It is also worth noting that the Russian government announces that it will increase military spending by as much as 70% in 2024.

Although the figures published by experts on Russia’s military spending vary, in summary, it can be said that in 2022, such spending would amount to around USD 80 billion, and in 2023 it may reach around USD 100 billion. This could rise even further in 2024.

Calculating the ratio of Russia’s military spending to GDP, we find that it was around 4% in 2022, over 5% in 2023 and will exceed 6% in 2024.

Russia is able to finance such military spending because it earns around USD 7,4 billion a month from oil and gas exports alone. This means that Russia can earn around USD 90 billion a year from oil and gas.

Ukraine plans to spend almost unchanged amounts of money on war financing in both 2023 and 2024 – around UAH 1,7 trillion, or around USD 44 billion.

Such war spending represents as much as 26,6% of Ukraine’s GDP, resulting in the deficit of the Ukrainian budget of USD 38 billion, or 27% of GDP. Therefore, Ukraine needs not only Western military support, but also support to cover the budget gap. Ukraine is also planning to spend USD 1,25 billion on the acquisition of drones in 2024.

The European Union has provided Ukraine with USD 29 billion in military aid since the start of the war. This is the support that the EU has provided for Ukraine’s military needs, both from its own budget (EUR 6 billion) and from all EU Member States combined, i.e. all the support provided to Ukraine by Germany, Lithuania, Poland and all other EU Member States.

However, this amount represents only 0,15% of the European Union’s gross domestic product!!! In 2 years, only 0,15%! In one year, it comes out to 2 times less – USD 14.5 billion or 0,075% of EU GDP.

The NATO standard for defence is 2% of GDP. The EU says that it will “stand together with Ukraine for as long as it takes” and that the Ukrainian war is also “our” war, but it spends only 0,075% on this “our” war.

Ukraine will spend 26% of its GDP on this war in 2023, Russia 6% and the EU only 0,075%. A staggering difference!!!

Of course, there are countries such as Lithuania (leading), Estonia, Latvia or Poland, which have already allocated 1% or even more of their GDP to military aid, but the overall level of EU military aid to Ukraine looks dismal – 0,075%.

Of course, the European Union is providing a lot of money for Ukraine’s macro-financial support, or in other words, for the financing of other expenses in the Ukrainian budget, but this does not change the fact that the only way to win a war is to finance a military victory. Wars are not won by political declarations of solidarity alone.

United States military aid to Ukraine has reached USD 42,10 billion in 2 years. Not much better than the EU support. In one year of war, US support amounts to only USD 21 billion or 0.10% of GDP.

Once the individual figures are broken down, the overall picture of the war’s “bookkeeping” can be seen, which reveals the main reason for the stalemate in this war on the Eastern Front.

As has already been shown, Russia’s military expenditure in 2023 is estimated at USD 100 billion. Maybe more.

Ukraine’s military spending is USD 44 billion. The European Union adds USD 14,5 billion to this, and the US another USD 21 billion. To this could be added the figures for British or Norwegian aid (not included in the EU statistics), but these do not change the substance.

So, the total amount of funds Ukraine, the EU and the US have allocated in 2023 to militarily counter Russian aggression is only USD 79,5 billion. This is less than the USD 100 billion allocated by Russia for the same purpose this year.

One can remember that the US and the EU are 25 times more economically powerful than Russia. But Russia is spending 6% of its GDP on this war, while the EU and the US are spending only 0,075% and 0,10% respectively. That is to say, Russia is devoting 60-80 times more of its economy to this war than the US or the EU.

I stress, 60-80 times more!

This is why the war is stalling in the trenches: because Russia is clearly winning against the West on the front of its economic mobilisation for war.

This overall picture of the financial “bookkeeping” of the war also makes clear what is needed to avoid a disastrous trench war on the Eastern military front: this requires victory on the political front in the West. And this is one of the most important geopolitical tasks for Lithuania. Lithuania must not only worry about its own bilateral support for Ukraine, but also about how to build a coalition of like-minded and like-supporting countries (the Baltic States, Poland, Scandinavia, the UK) and how to persuade the rest of the West to follow our example.

I can say again and again what I have said many times before: It is important for Lithuania today to take care and fight on the Western front to ensure that Russia is defeated at Kherson and Kharkiv, and not just to accept the current situation of “trench warfare” in Ukraine, and to think now only about how we will defend Vilnius when Putin comes to us after victory in Ukraine.

Russia will lose in Ukraine if we win in the West. That is the alpha and omega of our defence and security strategy. This requires that we stop just watching military developments in
Ukraine like the self-righteous actors or neutral experts, we need to start to “fight” in the European Council in Brussels and Washington and in other Western outposts for real and much larger investment into Ukraine’s defense, in order to guarantee that Ukrainian military efforts are financed 2 or 3 times more than Russia is able to finance it’s own. I have not heard anything so far about such fights for such purposes on the Western front and about building coalitions for our victories on that front.

We will be talking about the new battles ahead on the Western Front and Ukraine’s future victories at a high-level conference in the European Parliament organised by the U4U (United for Ukraine) coalition this coming Tuesday, 28 November. We started the U4U coalition on the first day of the war in order to win the battles on the Western Front. Because only then will Ukraine finally win.

And we will achieve it!


Andrius Kubilius. Populism In The New Europe: The End Of The Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

In 2024, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the “New Europe” – on 1 May, it will be 20 years since eight Central European and Baltic States became members of the European Union. Romania and Bulgaria joined a little later, and Croatia was the last.

Someone in the US named all these newcomers “New Europe” because of their differences from “Old Europe”, and the title “New Europe” has stuck.

The New Europe, with its membership of the European Union, its access to the much richer EU Single Market and its billions in financial support from EU funds, has managed to grow rapidly over these two decades and to catch up with the economic development of The Old Europe.

In the light of the sad historical experience of the last centuries in the New Europe, such a leap in the region’s fortunes in recent decades could be generally regarded as a miracle. The New Europe should be the European Union’s greatest enthusiast, never ceasing to celebrate this post-war invention of the Old Europe.

However, this is not the case. Over the last decade, the New Europe has become a region where anti-European populism, disrespect for the European rule of law and democratic rules and traditions, and the development of a culture of “veto” blackmail have spread rapidly in the ruling circles. Orban’s Hungary, more recently Kaczynski’s Poland, a little before that Babiš’s Czech Republic, and now Fico’s Slovakia have been, and are, the flag-bearers of such populism, which is frightening the whole of the European Union. A few years ago, ideas of Karbauskis (leader of the Greens-peasants Union) for Lithuania were also along the same lines. In Lithuania, they continue to float, in ever-changing forms, between the Daukantas Square (President’s Palace) and the current opposition in the Seimas.

It is therefore worth looking much deeper into the causes of the New Europe wave of populism and where the whole of the New Europe is at the moment: is it at the beginning of such a wave and is the peak of the wave yet to come, or are we already witnessing the beginning of the ebb? And what are we to do about all this in Lithuania, being a part of the same the New Europe?

The results of mid-October elections in Poland make it possible to be more optimistic not only about Poland, but also about the prospects for the whole of the New Europe, especially Central Europe, in combating the pandemic of populism in the New Europe in this period. Not only has Poland returned to Europe, but it is likely that Europe is returning not only to Poland but to the whole of Central Europe.

Why am I so cautiously optimistic?

To answer such a question, it is first necessary to look a little deeper into the causes and methods of such populism in the New Europe.

Firstly, one has to answer the question why and how the demand for populism arose in the New Europe, and secondly, the question of why such a populism became the anti-European populism in the same New Europe?

It is clear that populism is no stranger to today’s democratic world. There are many examples of it both in Europe and in the United States: Le Pen in France, the AfD in Germany, and the Trumpists in the United States are all enjoying considerable electoral success, using the same formula for populist “success”: primitively telling the less educated part of the electorate who their “enemy” is, and then showing how that enemy is and will be fought.

There is a familiar list of such “enemies” on the standard menu, which has been successfully used for a long time and is constantly being updated: the global Jewish, Masonic or gay conspiracy, neo-liberalism, globalisation and the European Union. The historical experience of the populists shows that the naming of these “enemies” and the supposed fight against them is quite effective in mobilising large numbers of voters.

This formula for success was formulated in the first half of the 20th century by the famous German political philosopher Carl Schmitt, who argued that the most important function of politicians is to identify enemies and to fight them. This formula for the essence of politics, discovered by Carl Schmitt, was favoured by Hitler, admired by the Russian philosopher Ilyin, who escaped from the Bolsheviks, and whose works are now admired by Putin and the Kremlin elite.

This arsenal of populism, tested by Putin in Russia, has also been put to reasonably effective use in the New Europe. This does not necessarily mean that it was spread in the New Europe exclusively by the Kremlin (although the Kremlin was happy to spread it in both New and Old Europe). Poland’s Kaczynski cannot be suspected of being favourable towards Kremlin, but the Kremlin’s discovery of the methods of propaganda against Russia’s main “enemies” – against gay Europe and Western liberal democracy, or the supposed fight for traditional family values – was quickly adopted by the New Europe’s populists. This includes not only Poland, but also Lithuania.

In the New Europe, such a populism was exclusively the populism of political leaders. Political leaders gifted for such populism have claimed and instilled in their societies such a perception of “enemies”, and have concentrated ever greater powers of control over the media and the necessary finances for such a propaganda. Broad sections of New European society were prepared to submit to such indoctrination of the propaganda. This became an effective way of seizing power and holding on to it for long enough.

The first signs of this appeared already around 2000, and it began to take hold around 2010 with V.Orban, who first discovered G.Soros as the “enemy”, and then the entire European Union and liberal democracy. This was soon followed by Kaczynski and PiS in Poland, who already in 2015 declared that Poland’s biggest enemies, besides LGBT people, were Germany, the German-dominated European Union, and D.Tusk, who serves Germany. In 2017, A,Babiš, one of the richest businessmen in Czechia, notorious for his conflicts with the European Union, became its Prime Minister. A month ago, R.Fico returned to power in Slovakia, this time loudly declaring his anti-Ukrainian and thus anti-European stance. Anti-European populism guarantees political longevity in the New Europe: Orban, Fico, Kaczynski are the record holders for terms in office in the New Europe, while Babiš is again enjoying the status of the most popular politician in Czechia.

Lithuania has been no stranger to such populist trends over the last twenty years. The first to successfully use the traditional instrument of populism was R.Paksas (the impeached President of Lithuania), followed by a period of populist success by V.Uspaskich (a businessman with ties to Russia, who later became a minister of economy and now is a Member of the European Parliament). R.Karbauskis, using the same formula of populism, was successful in the 2016 parliamentary elections. The arsenal of “enemies” he named was wide – from V.Landsbergis and A.Kubilius to globalisation and the concept of a global Lithuania, to the bureaucrats of the European Union and Brussels, to neo-liberalism, the Istanbul Convention and LGBT, and even to the letter “w” or McDonald’s signs.

Looking at the Lithuanian history of anti-European populism, it is easy to see one tendency: it was and is primarily linked to those political leaders who were also leaders of big business. And such businesses in Lithuania were built up not only on the basis of contacts in Russia, but also on the basis of large-scale support from the European funds.

Very similar links can be found in the Central Europe: Czechia’s Babiš is not only a billionaire, but has also been the subject of a number of investigations by EU prosecutors regarding corruption related with the use of EU funds for his business, while Orban has long been known for building a business and media empire of friends and associates that helps him to monopolise power, and to distribute EU funds. Mr Kaczynski and PiS have used EU funds to exclusively strengthen their favoured sections of society. This phenomenon has been dubbed by some New Europe academic scholars the “grand” corruption, to distinguish it from “normal” corruption, where someone in a position of power takes care of their business. In 2018, Fico was forced to resign amid justified suspicions that a prominent journalist, Jan Kuciak, and his girlfriend had been murdered because the journalist was trying to investigate the large-scale corruption in the distribution of EU funds linked to the PM’s circle. Now Fico has regained power in order (as he proclaims) to drive out all the prosecutors and investigators who are still ruining his life.

Thus, the root cause of the wave of anti-European populism in the New Europe is the European Union’s own funds and money to support the development of the New Europe itself. Such money and the possibility of distributing it tempts some to seek power at any cost and at the cost of any populism, and then to use such money also to maintain power. In the new Europe, the most popular and effective populism for taking or keeping power is the anti-European populism. And so we have a paradox: the generous European Union itself is the main cause of anti-European populism in the New Europe. And we will continue to see waves of such an anti-European populism in the New Europe until the New Europe itself becomes a financial donor. Then the temptation to use populist methods to get into power in order to access EU funds will end. Just as the period of seeking power for the sake of “prikhvatisation” (the concept combining “privatisation” and the Russian language verb “прихватить(to grab), and meaning the usually dodgy privatisation process, where the state property was appropriated by persons/entities close to organized crime) once ended. There will be other temptations to populist power-grabbing, but it is safe to assume that there will be fewer direct business interests involved, and therefore less political power. And therefore it will be less dangerous.

Meanwhile, we in Lithuania are not far from the dangers of anti-European populism. Although the wave of Karbauskis’s populism seems to have receded, this does not mean that there will be no signs of a new wave of populism and anti-Europeanism during the next year’s elections. The European money is not over yet, the next Seimas and the Government and the President will have until 2027 to negotiate in Brussels the EU’s new macrofinancial perspective for the period of 2027-2034, which will define how much money Lithuania will receive and for whom. It may seem to some, including in Lithuania, that during the period of such negotiations it is better for Lithuania to have a more talkative, more “self-interested” government than the current government of “untalkative” conservatives and liberals.

How will this be attempted?

Once again, someone will have to harness the mobilising power of anti-European populism. The instruments for this are in place: members of marches for family, with Kremlin agents behind them, the you-tube videos of former and self-proclaimed journalists, and the goodwill of the Daukantas Square – everything will be used for this. The entire political arsenal of the left will be actively involved, no matter what they call themselves today: peasants, democrats or social democrats, or simply Žemaitaičiai and Gražuliai. All of them will, in one way or another, be under the wing of G.Nausėda and I.Vėgėlė, even if the latter will pretend that “they have nothing to do with all of this”.

The battle in the next elections will not be between the choices of the political left and right, but between populism and anti-populism. The populism will lean very strongly towards the anti-Europeanism. In the presidential elections, we will see not so much a fight between G.Nausėda and I.Šimonytė, but a duel between empty populism and constructive anti-populism.

Since the 1990s, anti-populism in Lithuania has been, is, and will continue to be a characteristic of only a healthy centre-right, even though it too has to continually rein in anti-European temptations within itself.

Finally, I must answer the question why I wrote at the beginning of this text that I am cautiously optimistic about the long-term prospects for anti-European populism in both New Europe and Lithuania?

It is because I think that next year’s elections in Lithuania may be the last elections in which the European anti-populism will have to compete with the region-wide anti-European populism. After that, the space for waves of anti-European populism is likely to begin to recede sharply.

Why do I think so?

First and foremost, because by the end of this decade, especially if Ukraine becomes an EU member before then, Lithuania will have moved from being a recipient of the EU aid to an EU donor. At the same time, there will no longer be such a strong temptation for somebody to rush to power and, in the name of that, to “wash” people’s minds with all the anti-European rhetoric. Then it will become clear that the majority of Lithuanians are really happy to be members of the EU and they want to live according to European rules, traditions and understandings, including on human rights issues.

Secondly, because the elections in Poland have shown that the younger generation is no longer “buying” all the anti-European rhetoric and threats to traditional values from Brussels. It is likely that we will also see in Lithuania a greater resistance of the younger generation to the populist bacillus.

By the end of this decade, the New Europe and the Old Europe are likely to finally converge: anti-European populism and pro-Kremlin idiocy will be present in some quantity everywhere, but it will no longer be dominant. Unfortunately, such a dominance still exists today in some parts of the New Europe.

Lithuania, together with the new Poland, can be at the forefront of the recovery of the New Europe from the pandemic of populism. Let us wish ourselves that!


EPP proposal for Resolution on Recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism

The European Parliament is moving forward with the adoption of the resolution on recognising the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The adoption is planned in the plenary meeting next week in Strasbourg. Political groups have already presented their suggestions and expect to finalise the text this Thursday (November 17) or Friday (November 18) at the latest.

The draft resolution as proposed by the EPP Group in the European Parliament.



R. Juknevičienė to coordinate foreign affairs and security at the largest EP group

At last week’s European People’s Party Group leadership meeting, its President Manfred Weber announced that MEP Rasa Juknevičienė will be responsible for coordinating foreign affairs and security policy at the EP’s largest political group. Ms Juknevičienė, who became the group’s vice-president in October this year, has been appointed the head of the group’s foreign policy working group. All vice-presidents are responsible for their assigned areas.

The MEP notes that the EU faces several challenges in the area of foreign affairs and security, including the hybrid attack on the EU by the Belarusian regime, the Kremlin’s escalation in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans, the recent focus on relations with China and Taiwan, the security situation in the Sahel, the review of the EU-Africa Partnership Strategy, Afghanistan and the future of relations with the US, cyber security challenges, and so on.

“I am ready to work with my colleagues to find a common consensus on the position of the EPP Group on these important issues of foreign and security policy,” said Ms Juknevičienė.

The Bureau of the EPP Group is composed of the President and 10 Vice-Presidents. The Bureau coordinates the work of the members of all 20 parliamentary committees and actively shapes the group’s political direction and position in EP plenary sessions. R. Juknevičienė is the first Lithuanian woman to hold such a senior position in the leadership of the EPP Group. She is vice-chair of the EP’s Subcommittee on Security and Defence, a member of the Development Committee, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, and the Committee on Foreign Interference in EU Democratic Processes, the initiator and coordinator of the European Memory Group, vice-chair of the South Caucasus Delegation, and a successful representative of the European Parliament in the negotiations on the EU’s largest financial instrument, Global Europe.


Time to act for the EU: five point plan for democratic Belarus

Since the fraudulent presidential election of the 9th of August 2020, the Belarusian people over nearly four months are in the midst of their fight for freedom and democracy. The political situation in Belarus, a country, which is in the heart of Europe, is deplorable and reminds us the horrors of 1937-1944. The only difference is that Belarus today is under the occupation by the Lukashenko regime, which is systemically using torture, violence and a wild-scale terror against Belarusian citizens.

The fight for democracy in Belarus is real. It is in the courtyards and streets, widespread all over Belarus. This is a Democratic Belarus Revolution. Revolution of dignity and consciousness. This Revolution has its heroes, which are the people of Belarus, and one enemy, a tyrannical Lukashenko regime, which has plunged itself in the massive repressions all over the country. Just over three months, Belarus have overpassed a number of 30 000 people imprisoned, which is constantly increasing, peaking to over 1000 people per day. These detentions are followed by the reports of torture, rape and kidnappings. At least, ten persons of the peaceful protests – Raman Bandarenka, Alexander Taraikovsky, Gennadiyd Shutov, Alexander Vikhor, Mikita Kryutsou, Denis Kuznetsov, Stanislav Chur, Alexei Demidov, Alexander Budnitsky, Konstantin Shishmakov – have been found dead since 9th of August 2020.

Up until now, the response of the EU to the legitimate demands of Democratic Belarus is clearly not sufficient. The inaction of EU and its institutions undermines the credibility of the western community to defend democracy in the heart of Europe. The EU yet has to realise that its policy on Belarus is a geopolitical litmus test for the future of democracy in the whole European continent. The failure to effectively support the changes in Belarus will only bring even wider negative implications and will work hand in hand for Putin’s regime, which is repeating Lukashenko’s experience by systemically targeting and oppressing the opposition in Russia.

Yet, it is not too late for the international community and the EU to come into the play and to liberate Belarus from the occupation. The EU can develop a comprehensive and ambitious plan to support and rebuild the institutions of Democratic Belarus.

The EU has many policy instruments as its disposal, which can and must be deployed immediately to stop the repressions in Belarus and to start a peaceful transition of power.

Action One: International Compact for Democracy At the international level, the EU can use the opportunity to boost its cooperation with the world leaders, including with the US President-elect, to defend democracy globally. The Summit for Democracy, as a new international compact, could be an opportunity for the international partners to renew commitments on defending human rights and standing against dictatorships. This is, especially, important in the eastern part of the European continent, where the people are courageously demanding changes and a genuine transformation towards democracy.

Action Two: Fully fledged policy dialogue with representatives of Democratic Belarus At the EU and national level, the determination of the European Parliament is another opportunity for the EU to act. The Parliament is ready to engage and urgently organise a fact-finding mission of MEPs to meet with Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya in Vilnius and with representatives from the Coordination Council in Warsaw, to structure the demands of Democratic Belarus. This would help the European Parliament to prepare for the launching of the High-Level mission to engage with the Government of Belarus, leaders of Russia, the United States, and, most importantly, with leaders of the EU and its Member States, to work together to stop repressions of the Belarusian people, to free political prisoners and to prepare for the new elections. The EU has yet not fully used the potential of its democracy support toolbox available for the mediation needs, capacity building and electoral support for a peaceful transition of power in Belarus.

Action Three: International Tribunal of the crimes committed by Lukashenko regime The EU should be much more active in contributing, without delay, to the international investigation of the crimes of Lukashenko regime and assist the establishment of International Tribunal for this purpose. In particular, the EU can support the establishment of the evidence collection centre and the EU taskforce or panel of the international law experts to assist the international investigation of cases (Belarus Justice Hub). The European Parliament is holding hearings and meetings of its committees, working groups and delegations, but this is not enough. We need a leadership of this process internationally and nationally, for example, to coordinate domestic proceedings of applying the universal jurisdiction in the cases against torture. The instruments provided under the European Network for investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes (Eurojust) initiative should be also used more actively. The EU must be actively supporting and contributing to the international investigation in cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OSCE Moscow mechanism, Belarus Justice Hub, the UN Convention against Torture, to name a few organisations and initiatives among many widely recognised international instruments of justice.

Action Four: EU reform and investment support plan for Democratic Belarus The EU has to finalise, as soon as possible, a multi-billion-euro EU reform and investment support plan for Democratic Belarus, which will include reform and investment capacity building measures coordinated by the EU task-force, organisation of the international donor event with G7 and IFIs, provision of the EU external investment support instruments (EU Guarantee Instrument, EU pipeline project investment platform) as well as the proposals for national platform of investments in Democratic Belarus (coordination of investment assistance, EU macro-financial assistance, private and public investments, compact for reforms in cooperation with IFIs, IMF and national promotional institutions).

Action Five: Going operational with Democratic Belarus Representation Office (DBRO) The EU, in cooperation with the European Parliament, should act together with Ms Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the Coordination Council to establish without delay in Brussels the Democratic Belarus Representation Office (DBRO), which would coordinate at the EU level the dialogue mediation, policy advocacy and strategic communication needs. The European Parliament, in cooperation with EU institutions and partners, could be ready to support DBRO with democracy support, EU thematic and international support programmes. The DBRO should be given full credentials to work with the EU institutions in order to promote the interests of Democratic Belarus.

At the operational level, the EU must act quickly with the provision of EU financial support to victims of repressions, independent media, workers and their families participating in the national strike throughout Belarus. The EU can assist in organising workshops with European trade unions, facilitating the exchange of experience with colleagues from other countries having similar repressive circumstances, for example of Polish Solidarnosc and a role played there by the trade unions.

The EU institutions must work intensively in the preparation of the EU-led mediation roadmap with international leaders and to elaborate without delay the EU non-recognition policy of Lukashenko regime (as is the case with EU policy on Crimean occupation). The EU must act quickly to engage with representatives of Democratic Belarus institutions via the policy instruments of a political dialogue. The EU can do more in providing targeted sectoral economic sanctions, banning Lukashenko’s Belarus from international sport and culture events, as well as establishing a comprehensive list of Lukashenko regime mercenaries who would be subject to a wide spectrum of sanctions and, in particular, to a wide-scale EU visa ban, forbidding the entry to the EU for everyone who participated in the repressions of Belarusian people.

Finally, the EU can be more active in area of public diplomacy. It can initiate public awareness campaigns and international events, such as the meetings with international trade unions, student, media and human rights organisations. It can organise, for example, Free Belarus Forum in cooperation with the World Belarus Congress, as well as thematic events, such as Students Forum, Free Media Forum, Trade Unions Forum and Human Rights Forum to express our unwavering support to Belarus.


Rasa Juknevičienė. How European History can heal the wounds of the past

Like very many other families, generations of my family – my parents, my grandparents – had a mission: to preserve the history of our country for the future through their children.

We spent a large part of our lives in occupied Lithuania, where history was fabricated and concealed, hidden. Falsification of history was a cornerstone of the rule of the Soviet Empire. My brothers and I, we learned our history from the stories that our mother and grandmother told us about their life in Siberia. Those stories saved our minds from drowning in the Soviet lies.

Our mission – to preserve the history of our country

Many families in my country did the same. But it took longer to fully understand our history. Even after we regained our freedom, we needed time to open our hearts and comprehend the full horror of the Holocaust that took place in Lithuania, occupied by Nazis. We needed time to acknowledge the cruelty with which the Soviet regime crushed the partisan resistance in the forests of Lithuania. The resistance that was (and still is!) so little known in Europe, but which was also hidden from Lithuanians by the Soviets. Only recently have we discovered and properly reburied the bodies of our resistance fighters and leaders.

EP resolution that damaged Kremlin’s historical attack

Now is the time to acknowledge our European history as the history of all of us. As a member of the European Parliament, I see the question of European historical memory as one of my priorities. I started my first term at the European Parliament in July 2019, right before the 80th anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact. The idea to initiate a European Parliament resolution commemorating this day that was so important for the history of all Europe came during a conversation with Tune Kelam – an Estonian politician that had finished his term at the EP last year.

Today we have an official EU document that we can rely on when we talk about the importance of history for the future of Europe, how can European History heal the wounds of the past or when we are faced with disinformation that aims to distort it. On 19th September 2019, a resolution was adopted at the European Parliament by 535 votes in favour. It is important to remind that the EP adopted the resolution with similar content on 2009. Looking from a historical approach, one of the main provisions in the text of the new resolution which is mentioned for the first time in the history of resolutions is this: – Treaty of Non-Aggression, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and its secret protocols, dividing Europe and the territories of independent states between the two totalitarian regimes and grouping them into spheres of interest, paved the way for the outbreak of the Second World War;

This sentence was the main reason why this resolution was noticed by Kremlin. The resolution became a focus for Vladimir Putin in December 2019. We understood that with this document, we severely damaged a huge historical attack, that was prepared for the 75th anniversary of the victory of WWII. If not for the pandemic, this date had to be celebrated with pompous parades and the participation of Western leaders, assessing the victory according to Stalin’s historical doctrine. According to the plan, not only Russia’s public sphere but also EU public sphere had to be filled with Stalinist WWII narratives.

Kremlin‘s attacks against Poland

I was really surprised at first that the Kremlin’s attack against EP resolution was directed towards Poland and Polish members of the Parliament, although the original text was born in Lithuania, in the computer of my assistant. Most probably the Kremlin missed the beginning of resolution’s preparatory work and some small Lithuanians seemed completely insignificant. When I was gathering the necessary support for the idea and adoption of the resolution, Latvians, Bulgarians, Romanians and, of course, Poles joined the process. Their amendments were very important. It seems that the attack against Poland was directed because it was necessary to find a weapon to deny the most important provision of resolution – that WWII was started by the agreement of both dictators, both totalitarian regimes. This provision was written in the preliminary text of the resolution and during the debates of European Parliament it did not receive any critique or doubts, it was adopted without amendments, left unchanged, as it was on the computer of my assistant. This indicates that for most representatives of EU countries in the Parliament, this provision does not raise any doubts. Hopefully, Putin’s attempts to erase obvious facts will not resonate in Europe.

Communism and Nazism are equal

For some members of parliament from the Southern states of Europe, especially from the left parties, it was difficult to understand why we propose to equate nazism and communism. The wording of the Resolution after the discussion stage slightly changed, however this provision remained in the text. So displaying the parallels between communism and nazism, as well as the statement that WWII was started by both – Hitler and Stalin – are the most inconvenient to the different WWII narrative planned by the Kremlin.

According to them, the Soviets must be regarded as the only antifascists, and those who don’t agree with such story are fascists. The countries neighbouring Russia are facing the brunt of its attacks. That’s why it was very important to adopt the resolution with an overwhelming majority and to send a very clear message that we are united. However, the most important target is Russia’s society and especially the youth. At home the Russian political leadership takes aim not only at the Soviet nostalgic electorate, but also at the younger generation. They are to be trained in a nationalistic ideology including a hostile view of the West. Moto “Those who control the past control the future”.

Stalin’s role is being heroised, the crimes of that period are not only justified but also glorified. It’s important to see it and act unanimously, because the silence of democratic world will cultivate even greater aggression. Could anyone imagine monuments built to Hitler in Germany? Most certainly not. However, such monuments to Stalin are still being built in Russia. Communist crimes have not been condemned as nazi crimes have, therefore Stalinism is returning to Russia in other, aggressive forms. We are being tested, how far Kremlin can go with history falsification attacks.

Until the time comes when Russia reflects on its history as Germany did, World War II or R / M dividing lines will remain alive on the European continent. The distinguishing feature of those lines are the spaces of democracy and autocracy. Today’s events in Belarus also demonstrate this. It‘s necessary to stop Russia’s disinformation war against EU states However, Russia itself continues to suffer the most from Soviet totalitarianism, failing in any way to overcome the blackest tumours of its history.

The resolution also contains an important sentence on this: “… Russia remains the greatest victim of communist totalitarianism and that its development into a democratic state will be impeded as long as the government, the political elite and political propaganda continue to whitewash communist crimes and glorify the Soviet totalitarian regime; calls, therefore, on Russian society to come to terms with its tragic past.”

It‘s necessary and possible to stop Russia’s disinformation war against EU states (using history) if the EU has a strong common understanding that European history is not just Western European history. With the end of WWII, the bloody Holocaust ended. However, a big part of the current EU sank into the darkness of communism, with millions of people still tortured in Stalin’s camps after the war. No one ever liberated them the way Auschwitz was liberated, and so far, no EU leader has laid flowers anywhere in Norilsk or Krasnoyarsk.

A clear strategy is needed so that history is not used as a weapon against the EU. We need to have an ambitious plan for teaching history at schools, as called for in the resolution adopted by the EP. In Lithuania, I often hear words of disappointment from my constituents that the West does not understand our history. But do we in the European Northeast understand the history of the Spanish, Italian, or Greek while they lived under totalitarian regimes? Probably not.

We, therefore, need to make the EU not only a common economic market, not only a common space for those travelling without borders but also a common space for our different historical experiences and memories. In the EP, we established an informal Remembrance Group. We recently had a virtual meeting with Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency.

We agreed to work together to implement the key provisions of the resolution. I would also like to remind that the EP resolution calls on the Commission to provide effective support for projects of historic memory and remembrance in the Member States and for the activities of the Platform of European Memory and Conscience and to allocate adequate financial resources under the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme to support commemoration and remembrance of the victims of totalitarianism, as set out in the Parliament’s position on the 2021-2027 Rights and Values Programme. I wish us all to heal the wounds of the past. A speech by Rasa Juknevičienė – Member of the European Parliament – in the conference Past for the Future


To the Memory of Roman Bondarenko

Statement of LT EPP delegation in European Parliament

Few days ago Belarus lost another young soul, a fighter for a free Belarus, artist and former soldier, a 31 year old Roman Bondarenko, who was beaten to death by Lukashenkos men in balaclavas, after being taken from his homesquare of Peramen (Square of Change).

Roman was beaten, because he defended symbols of national flag, which were rised by local people and were attacked by criminals in balaclavas.

He could not stand the injustice, torture and repressions, cynically spread by the regime of Lukashenko in the streets and courtyards of his city Minsk and other places all over Belarus.

Roman went into the street, close to his apartment, to defend his dream of a free Belarus and was bruttaly killed.

How many deaths yet we have to witness for the international community to wake-up and take action to end a systemic brutal violence and torture of Lukashenko and his regime against the innocent people in Belarus?

The name of Roman Bondarenko should stay with us as a symbol of personal commitment to freedom, democracy and human dignity. And as a powerful reminder to us, that we cannot stay silent.

Members of European Parliament (Lithuanian delegation in EPP Group)

Rasa Juknevičienė

Andrius Kubilius

Aušra Maldeikienė

Liudas Mažylis