BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS

LITHUANIA - STANDING UP TO BULLIES ON THE BLOCK

October 28, 2020 Dana Lewis Season 2 Episode 17
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
LITHUANIA - STANDING UP TO BULLIES ON THE BLOCK
Chapters
BACK STORY with DANA LEWIS
LITHUANIA - STANDING UP TO BULLIES ON THE BLOCK
Oct 28, 2020 Season 2 Episode 17
Dana Lewis

Some might say Lithuania punches well above it's weight on International Affairs.

It has taken on Belarus, and Russia and demanded The European Union stand up and speak out on human rights,  It has taken in political refugees and let them speak out from Lithuania.

It's a Country of only 3 million but speaks like a super power.

What can we learn from Lithuania which now worries about America retreating from The World Stage?

On this Back Story , Host Dana Lewis discusses The U.S. and Russia and freedoms with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.

Show Notes Transcript

Some might say Lithuania punches well above it's weight on International Affairs.

It has taken on Belarus, and Russia and demanded The European Union stand up and speak out on human rights,  It has taken in political refugees and let them speak out from Lithuania.

It's a Country of only 3 million but speaks like a super power.

What can we learn from Lithuania which now worries about America retreating from The World Stage?

On this Back Story , Host Dana Lewis discusses The U.S. and Russia and freedoms with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.

Speaker 1:

Is president Putin a danger for you? And is it, is it not a danger to stand up to Russia right now and to speak out as your country does? No, we are now in a different situation. We are members of NATO members of European union. Then definitely he's a danger, but not just to us, I would say he's instability and everything we're doing lately. Russians. I mean, crumbling to be more precise on Russians, they instead of managing crisis, they are creating crisis and this is everywhere.

Speaker 2:

Hi everyone. And welcome to backstory. I'm Dana Lewis. America has under president Trump withdrawn on many fronts in terms of leadership in the world. Places like Syria, Iraq, Libya, he makes wobbly commitments to NATO based on money instead of ideology. Trump just didn't doesn't have a good knowledge of the dramatic loss of a superpower on the world stage. As a foreign correspondent, I spent a lifetime covering conflicts and how they can change if America speaks up. And if you're American, have no doubt about how the U S improves human rights and democracy in our world, not all the time, but most of the time we look to the U S until Trump came along and measured everything in terms of dollars in America. First Belarus is an example of where if Trump condemned the brutal arrest of opposition members, things could change Russia. Trump has refused to condemn the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. Russia has gotten more involved in conflict. So as Turkey now also emboldened by the withdrawal of America from the world stage. Anyway, this podcast is about who fills that void when the leader of the free world is not really leading? Well, no one does completely, but there are some countries that have stepped up and spoken out Germany. For instance, Angela Merkel has pushed back on Russia. So was France to some degree. And here's another, you probably never think about little Lithuania. One of the former Soviet satellites that has become fiercely independent, independent in 1990. It has a long history dating back to the 12 hundreds situated along the Eastern shore of the Baltic sea to the Southeast of Sweden and Denmark. Lithuania is bordered by Latvia to the North Belarus, to the East and South Poland, to the self and clean and grad old blasts . The Russian enclave to the Southwest Lithuania has become one of the most tenacious critics of Russia's annexation of the Crimea and meddling and Ukraine. Lithuania was the first to call for sanctions on Russia. After the recent poisoning of an opposition figure there, it has taken sanctions Belarus and its brutal leader, Alexander Lucas Shenko . And in fact, led the EU into more sanctions, embarrassing the EU into acting. And it took in the opposition leader from Belarus and gave her another safety and a place to speak out. Lithuania is a NATO country of only 3 million people, but it's a leader in democracy and human rights, and it exists in a dangerous area maybe because it's been trampled over so many times in history and has had to fight so hard for freedom. Does it understand the dangers better than anyone? And what happens if you don't stand up to them early? So on this backstory, we talked to Lithuania's foreign minister about America's loss of influence and why Lithuania risk standing up to the bullies on the block.

Speaker 3:

All right. You know, you don't always have to be the biggest brawler in the neighborhood to speak out. Sometimes the smallest one can be the toughest and it is a tough neighborhood around Lithuania. I want to introduce you now to the foreign minister who has been so gracious to give us a bit of his time today. Leanness Lincoln vicious joins us. Now. I believe you're in building this , sir. Yes, I'm English . Can you tell me just first of all, I've made it a practice generally of asking people how they're doing in COVID-19 in terms of, you know, we're in this incredible period of time, how is Lithuania fairing with all of this right now? No .

Speaker 1:

So raising, you know, second wave first wave was managed quite well. We were proud about that happy, but now it looks like situation complicates . So we'll see. We'll see, it happens to be seen, right . Are

Speaker 3:

You under locked down or are people no , no ,

Speaker 1:

No. I'm in my office. Um , just everything is says usually, but yes , more restrictions and we'll see something to come.

Speaker 3:

Tell me why is Lithuania you've been so outspoken. I mean, let's talk about Belarus to begin with. You know, you've taken in the opposition leaders for Atlanta Tika know sky , uh , you've led on sanctions. Um, in fact, I want to note Lithuania was way ahead of the European union and you criticize the EU, I believe for acting too slowly.

Speaker 1:

Well, the , the thing is , uh , right, so, but you know, many reasons, one of the very simplest reasons that this is very close now, I'm sitting in my office, as I said, 30 kilometers to the border, the billers and the what is 650 kilometers long. So it's quite long enough external border of European union. And this country is quite integrated into Russia already before this crisis happened . And we can really have a business basically with [inaudible] enlarge the restaurant. So [inaudible] could be mentioned. Of course we still remember often can . It was also far away, 31 years ago, we had so-called, you know, Baltic way, if you remember what that means. It was chain of people standing from talent , 2 million people standing on arms in 1989, demanding freedom , which was still so the groups on the ground, and it was not, not clear what will happen next day. And this alarm , this resistance, it's very strong feeling, you know? So , um , on one hand you are really not aggressive, definitely a peaceful, but on the other hand, very firm cannot neglect. You know, these arguments when something reminds us what happened with the indifference that these people were treated in completely different way, and this will be sent invitations and put into custody, torturing crave team. And , uh , all these accounts we were receiving were shocking to say the least. And even if small part of that distributes already too much. So people were not indifferent and I'm seeing people that's not just government, you know, officials it's also, people were not in different . And then they also have chain of freedom quite recently in the second part of August, [inaudible] usually happens. And that was changed from Venus to the border, you know , so, so not too long, but nevertheless, also a replica of this Baltic chain 31 years ago, and this is organized by NGOs , no government people with the children and over the flowers with the flags came to the show solidarity. So this is something very strong. And so , so why are we outspoken ? So why , why we are not, not just indifferent, trying to also to mobilize international attention and what is happening.

Speaker 3:

Do you want to make a prediction on what happens in Belarus? How does this, how does the story end ,

Speaker 1:

Uh , many options, unfortunately, so the victory, it's not so obvious, you know , uh , the outgoing leader, leadership still Collins on the same methods they used to be before this method . So as I said, brutality and everything will be, will be used. And they believe that thousands and thousands of people now . Yeah , that's it. Then they will even threads to use . So to say a munition was not done yet, but people are courageous enough to protest in spite of everything. And then who knows, maybe they count that people will be tired, scared winter is coming. So weather conditions different than maybe less than the streets. And they believe that they will cope with the situation as usually, I don't know what to believe. You know, it depends on many things on the threshold of patients, for the obvious people, also in very tough stance of international community, because they also counting that the national community to this opinion will be as happens. You know, not, not, not strong. Maybe, maybe it will be split. Maybe it will be some coals to be pragmatic. You know, it's usually it happens. And , uh , they , they accounting to survive. Basically not try . We'll try to save time. Now we're looking for various options. The talking about the constitutional uniforms, for instance, which is also taking time and still enjoying the support of political sponsors from Moscow.

Speaker 3:

You're also, you're, you're also trying to survive there as a country. You only 3 million people sandwich between you've got Poland and Russia and Belarus, and Lafayette is obviously a friendly country, but is president Putin a danger for you? And is it, is it not a danger to stand up to Russia right now and to speak out as your country does?

Speaker 1:

No, we are now in very different situation. We are members of NATO members of European union. And definitely he's a danger, but not just to us, I would say he's instability and everything we're doing lately . Russians . I mean , scrambling to be more precise, not Russians. They are instead of managing crisis, they are creating crisis. And this is everywhere would be , it could be South, South caucuses , right? 20% of Georgian territories occupied an extension of Crimea. Now aggression again is Donbass frozen conflict in Transnistria moving from European content that you can mention Libya, Syria every way, do not see any constructive approach. So instead of, as I said, managing crisis, they create and going through that, they're trying to influence the situation. Alerts is not exception. And again, the few will be in include this . And I do not think that they would like to solve, but probably they would like to really manage. And , uh , that's, that's the case. So, but this is different. Our situation is, as I said, we are belonging. We belong to important organizations which are protecting us. And if you will not be members of these clubs, that could be really dangerous and could be the same faithless , somehow neighbors ,

Speaker 3:

But you have spoken out against them when they've used , uh , cyber attacks on the Lithuanian government. Um, you've, you've spoken out on democracy in Russia. You've spoken out on non-interference and Ukraine non-interference in Belarus . Uh, does that not infuriate the Kremlin and, and bring pressure your way

Speaker 1:

It does. Of course, definitely. They don't like it. And what I believe is wrong, you know, when you are too pragmatic too , too . So to say flexible, and this is definitely wrong perception because they expect that the world will take this new normal. As, as reality, they , they, they definitely violating international law. The next thing, as I said , never countries. And they expect that no people will disagree, but that there will be some small price to, and it's possible to continue with the business as usual. That's the expectation. So we're trying to say that this is not , not right. This is not right, because we have too many lessons before. You know, I mentioned this conflict. I will not repeat, but these are lessons not learned by my international community, but it's learned by them because it's possible to do something, to commit something and price is quite agreeable. Why not to repeat? So this is repeating every time and that's important. We have called international community.

Speaker 3:

It's repeating you mean is that the international community gets distracted and they, they let things deteriorate. And then that gives Russia , uh , I guess, more fuel to metal , uh, into a road democracy in places. Is that what you mean?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's exactly it . Because if somebody says, Oh , let's not, no , it's also matter of attitudes . When somebody is saying that you shouldn't provoke by your statements, you shouldn't provoke them. But I'm always saying that you're provoking by not stating something sometimes provoking by not doing, if you're doing not enough or reacting, not sufficiently, that means you implicitly provoking them to continue though . This is a different approach. And I don't think this shared by everyone, but it's also should be discussed. I believe very serious.

Speaker 3:

You're disturbed by the silence of, of us president Donald Trump on Russia, then

Speaker 1:

I'm not discussing foreign officials. I'm in position myself. So let me, let me stay where I am, but we have always read . We're talking with our friends who are the allies. We're trying to draw attention to these things, trying to say that this is not dangerous as you ask me, is it dangerous to me personally, to my country? Maybe it's not the case. We are talking about instability, the source of instability and especially the big players, big guys. So those will have influence in this world. They must be active. And definitely this is nothing to do with aggressiveness. By the way, you can consistency of how policy respecting our own decisions basically. And very three things are changing our mind or being flexible. Sometimes when we need to react, we cannot blame no one just, just ourselves. So why , why others should respect our decisions if we are not consistent ourselves sometimes. So these are the messages we're trying to send to our friends in the license while trying to be as clear as possible.

Speaker 3:

I'm not going to press you into us politics, but I will press you on your philosophy because I'm very curious about how Lithuania looks at the world right now. And I think we can all probably learn a little bit from a wake-up call in hearing you sometimes. And that is two years ago. One of your ambassadors wrote it's well known that the world today is in the midst of a grave crisis of democracy. The confidence we all had after the wool of the Soviet union in the inexorable progress of democracy has been replaced by pessimism and apprehension. Do you feel that way? Are we in a crisis of democracy right now?

Speaker 1:

Yes, I do. And may, may be allowed to quote to the client . [inaudible] she's a , as you said, leader for position stays in Virginia she's newcomer. She never been in politics. Yeah. And she , she said myself that look, I'm very new, I'm fresh. I'm not going to continue in this way because it's not something she expects to do in the , in the , in her life. But one of the messages I liked, you know, when , when she told once that when I arrived in the politics, she said, I noticed that so many organizations, so many frameworks, you know, and nothing is done basically. So she was surprised that, and she's so true. You know, we have so many organizations, we have European union noise , CE we have United nations security council. We have number of formats and frameworks and whatever, and nothing is done to back up to these people basically sometimes or little , okay, let's be Frank. Something is done, but not sufficient. So this is a glance or view from somebody coming from outside to all these strange machinery of politics. What I believe your question is quite right, is it really, is it really a democracy? If we are discussing things, we're condemning things, making statements when the women need to act or to do something more tangible, we are late too late, too little. That's exactly the case. And , and somebody who will doing this wrong things, they are staying in charge of the situation. Basically they are controlling the situation, not us. And this is the wrong. So something should be changed here. Again, I'm not saying not calling to be aggressive. I'm calling just sometimes to be consistent and tough. And the messaging, because these , uh, those who are doing, I mean these wrong things, they accepting only strong arguments. They do not accept. Politesse , you know, nice sayings. They , they, they, they may make no impression for them at all. It should be tough, clear our position polite, but at the same time, very clear, if it's not clear, that's taken as a weakness and they are continuing with the wrong policy as it was before.

Speaker 3:

Well , let me ask you how dangerous is it right now and who fills the vacuum when America is as distracted as it is with its internal political situation, which is very grave and threatening. Even one of the great democracies of the world is, is it a dangerous moment? Do you think with America, not exactly leading on the international stage, whether, whether you care for Republicans or Democrats, they are generally by anybody's account, not leading on human rights and democracy right now, who fills that vacuum? And what if, what if that vacuum is not filled?

Speaker 1:

Usually when we are politicians, those who have potentially power influence , uh , they are not taking lead sometimes. So this hackathon is filled by, by radicalism, by populism. And this has to be the case, not only in many countries, but by the way, we have some radicals in the governments of some countries. It's not in Lithuania. Things got so far, but we know we , we see now Nazi-ism or these radical views coming in, and then we are surprised why it's happening, but it's happening because of lack of leadership and vacuum has never, never, never sought to CMT. And this is the lesson to be seen. And now we definitely need more drive. So to say more responsibility, new leaders, new faces,

Speaker 3:

You're one of those leaders. And you're one of those faces. I mean, Lithuania took EU sanctions against you took sanctions on Belarus before the EU was even debating the situation. And, and you called them out. I mean, you've been great leaders.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. But I mean, it's not enough. You know, you told yourself so small country, we can definitely say something, state something, but we will not make big difference here. We may , we can draw attention, encourage have some incentives, but this is not enough. So it should be really overarching, overwhelming approach. Same as, as I would put the one example, not to prolong, sorry to too much, please know that some, some seven years ago we have the presidency and the council of European union. The also a big challenge for us. And we launched a lot of initiatives that we discussed a lot of issues among them need to fight with the fake news, right? Propaganda, which we told at that time, this is important weapon. And we have to react. We cannot stay silent. And that believe me, it was not understood at the beginning, by majority of colleagues , my immaturity ,

Speaker 3:

This is seven years ago.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. I'm getting a lot presidency. So it's not just us , but some other colleagues also raise these issues because less said , what kind of, what am I talking about? Do we need European censorship? Or do we need European propaganda? We said, no, we have to draw attention to what is happening. Because this propaganda machine brainwashing machine coming from that big country is really well organized, well equipped financed. And we cannot see the state as it is because freedom of flying. It's not the human rights, you know, freedom. It's not freedom of media. It's something else. And we have really to take it as it is. It's a weapon now it's different than it was seven years ago. As I said, because everyone has no own experience. You know, usually when we are telling story about something, what is wrong somewhere, not here it's looks like science fiction, but now everybody has own experience. And now it's easier to talk about these things and we are talking so sometimes maybe we can see things more sensitively, or I don't know how that's , that's exit as example. And by the way , you're right. At that time, when we were talking about these things and that's the dangerous policy, we were told that you're too radical. You are too, too. So to see data, there was something you enjoyed the politics coming . We didn't listen to you at that time. Tell us now, you know, you , you were right. That was really the set . Not once to me personally as well, but by the way . So that means we should learn lessons through our own experience probably, but so good would be to do , to react before crisis coming, not, not after. So with , to prevent. So with the take lead and being charged before something happening, not that the MH 17, not after souls video , not after the case or before, before react a bit. So that's, that's easy to say, but not so easy to do. Where do we go from my last question to you? Where do we go from here? Do you think, do you hope after this November election in America, that America is restoring itself internationally as a defender of democracy and helping smaller countries like Lithuania, or do you feel that that moment is maybe lost for a while ? And that countries like Lithuania and Latvia and Estonia, and they have to band together and do this on their own with European leadership because America is just not going to carry the load as they did before. No , and never get easy with this approach because I believe that we have to stay United and transatlantic here. I'm personally strong transatlanticists I know that both political parties in the United States be Republicans , Democrats, they are really strong believers in that. And this is important. Not only for security on defense, it's important for other challenges of the world, B3 trade meets , climate change, name it, all the officials should be addressed. And if it's not addressed jointly, we will be weak and we will be really not strong, but potentially we community can be very strong players in the world. And that's, that's important. So I'm always trying to object . If somebody's trying to talk about autonomy, about distancing, about splitting, which is imitation , you know, to say, well , friendship not happen. So let's, let's do something else. No , there's some something else [inaudible] replaceable. And we have to understand all of us that this is so important. And this is sitting on the side of small or big. This is important to know and important to implement. It's great to have reminders from you about leadership and freedom of speech and how to deal with this information and how to deal with the bullies on the block. Uh , even if you're not the biggest

Speaker 2:

Country and the neighborhood you've shown great leadership. So Lena's the link of issues , uh , foreign minister of Lithuania. It's a really great pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much. Appreciate sort of thanks on the best. And that's our backstory on the little country that could and does speak up and stand up for freedom that the waning backstory appreciate support. All you have to do is press the subscribe button wherever you listen to podcasts, to get all our episodes. We usually have one or two weekly and please share this podcast. I'm Dana Lewis. Thanks for listening. And I'll talk to you again.

Speaker 4:

[inaudible] .