War at our doorstep, or what we are calling for

Original article was written by Lidžita, Lithuanian blogger and hereby translated to English by Albina Griniūtė.

War at our doorstep, or what we are calling for

At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a friend of mine and me were talking about how most Europeans have no idea what it is and how real it is. And not just in Ukraine. In Lithuania. In Germany. Throughout the whole of Europe.

The succession of events made it clear that even now, more than a year after that dreadful time, the attitude of most people is still the same.

The last event that made it clear most Europeans do not realize they are standing on a doorstep of WWIII was the popular Eurovision song contest where the Russian entry won an honorable second place.

Russia found a way how to use it to justify its aggression and encourage its citizens to believe that to slaughter a brotherly nation is normal and even praiseworthy.

“Congratulations to Polina Gagarina for her undisputed success and to Russia for the successful Europe-wide referendum where it was demonstrated which place, according to ordinary citizens of European countries, Russia should hold. In my opinion, both the politicians and the European media should listen to the “Million Voices” (title of P. Gagarina’s song) of their citizens. They are calling for normal relations with Russia”, wrote Konstantin Kosachev on his Facebook page.

So, what was “just a song” for an ordinary German, an ordinary Russian understood as a message saying “we are supported by the whole of Europe”. Is it still necessary to explain what message was transmitted by „Million voices“ and what message Russia received back?

I don’t give a damn if she sings well because only a madman can represent a country that occupies another, and shriek “Praying for peace and healing” while wearing a white dress.

I don’t give a damn if she sings well because only a madman can represent a country that occupies another, and shriek “Praying for peace and healing” while wearing a white dress.

Without a doubt, Gagarina was a symbol. A symbol of Russian PR and limitless naïveté. A symbol of aggression represented as peace. Of violence covered in faux tenderness. Of Russia – in the true sense of the word.

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Facebook protests against Mistral deal

Just like it was with the Facebook page of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, thousands of Facebook users began expressing their opinion about France selling Mistral-class amphibious assault ships to Russia. People expressed mocking gratitude on Facebook posts made by the President of France, François Hollande. They “thanked” France for arming an aggressor and helping it to shed blood.

Interestingly enough, it seems that admins of Hollande’s Facebook page decided that censorship is the best way to deal with legitimate criticism and according to some of the participants of this Facebook-based protests, many of these critical comments were deleted. So much for democracy and freedom of speech.

Facebook page of Francois Hollande was flooded by protests.

Facebook page of Francois Hollande was flooded by protests.

Thousands criticize Merkel’s position on her Facebook page

The page of the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, is now one of the most commented politician pages on Facebook. People from all over the world post comments with their opinions about the relationship between the German leader and Vladimir Putin. This appears to have been ispired by the meeting between them in Brasil a couple of days ago, when they seemed to find a common opinion that the situation in Eastern Ukraine is worsening due to the Ukrainian anti-terrorist operation. People on Facebook call Angela Merkel “Frau Ribbentrop”, an allusion to the infamous treaty signed in 1939 by the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. The Molotov-Ribbentrop pact drawn the lines of division of Central and Eastern Europe between two totalitarian regimes, Nazi and Soviet. Tens of thousands of comments were left on Merkel’s page.

Thousands protesting comments sparked after Angela Merkel published photo with thanks her followers in Facebook.

Thousands protesting comments sparked after Angela Merkel published photo with thanks her followers in Facebook.

The administrators of Merkel’s Facebook page have recently published an announcement where people freely expressing their opinion have been called spammers and admins reminded that they have a “netiquette” and may delete racist, extremist, libelous or similar comments. Apparently, criticism is frowned upon and may not be tolerated there.

Typical comments in Angela Merkel Facebook page.

Typical comments in Angela Merkel Facebook page.

May 16, 2014 Lithuanian media round-up

On 16th of May Lithuanian Parliament delegated 8 Members of Parliament to observe elections of Ukrainian President, which will be held on 25th of May. (Lithuanian Parliament Press Office, BNS, ELTA, 15min.lt)

On 17th of May Street Music Day will be held for the first time in Kiev, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Odessa. Lithuanian artists will arrive to support European Ukraine: groups ‘Biplan’, ‘Dee&Kammy’, ‘Colors Of Bubbles’, Jurgis Didžiulis will perform in Kiev, Edgaras Lubys/Amberlife and percussionist Donatas Senkus – in Lviv. (veidas.lt, vz.lt, delfi.lt, 15min.lt)

On 16th of May Vytautas Leškevičius, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Valeriy Piatnytsk, Government’s Commissioner for European Integration of Ukraine chaired the 10th meeting of the Lithuania-Ukraine Commission for European Integration. The Commission meeting discussed the creation of a coordination mechanism for European integration in Ukraine, Ukraine’s progress towards a visa-free regime with the EU and possible Lithuania’s expert assistance to Ukraine in the implementation of the Association Agenda. The representatives of Ukraine pointed out that they highly appreciated Lithuania’s support and consultations. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs information, ELTA, lrytas.lt)

On 16th of May Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO chief, said that ‘he could no longer trust Russia’s assurances on sovereignty and the territorial integrity of countries in the region after its annexation of Crimea’ (vz.lt, lrytas.lt, 15min.lt, delfi.lt). Read more in The Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/nato-chief-no-one-can-trust-russia-after-ukraine/#ixzz31u0kaIJu.

On 16th of May second United Nations report about human rights situation in Ukraine was published. It says that ‘human rights violations have escalated in Eastern Ukraine and serious problems are emerging in Crimea, as well as a “wave of abductions and unlawful detentions” of journalists, activists, politicians, representatives of international bodies and members of the military’ (delfi.lt, lrytas.lt, 15min.lt). Read more in Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/16/us-ukraine-crisis-un-idUSBREA4F05Y20140516.

On 14th of May Bill Clinton, former President of United States, accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of attempting to ‘re-establish Russian greatness, not in Cold War terms — in 19th-century-empire terms,’ warning world leaders they are perhaps dealing not with a rational foreign-policy thinker (delfi.lt, 15min.lt). Read more in Business insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/bill-clinton-putin-ukraine-russia-obama-2014-5#ixzz31u3nvN7S.

On May 16th Helmut Schmidt, former Chancellor of Germany, said that ‘Ukraine’s crisis reminds the eve of World War I and danger that situation will become more tense, as it did in August of 1914, is growing everyday.’ (delfi.lt, balsas.lt, 15min.lt)

May 14, 2014 Lithuanian media round-up

On 14th of May Petras Vaitiekūnas, Lithuanian Ambassador in Ukraine, in a The News radio programme ‘Actual Hour‘ said that ‘the tense situation remains in a most Ukrainian Region. Armed mobs looting flats, shops and banks are raging in separatist’s occupied cities. They also take hostages and demand ransom from relatives, torture and murder families, priests and Ukrainian politics.’ (delfi.lt, lrytas.lt, 15min.lt)

On 14th of May Vytautas Leškevičius, Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Igor Senchar, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia condemned Russian aggression against Ukraine and agreed to continue to hold the position supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity and non-recognition of the annexation of Crimea. (Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs information)

On 14th of May Sigmar Gabriel, German Vice Chancelor, said that ‘Europe is partly to blame for the crisis in Ukraine although this is no excuse for Russian behaviour towards the former Soviet republic.’ (15min.lt)

Clifford Gaddy, economist and Russia expert, in an interview to Deutsche Welle (DW) said that ‘the only solution to the dispute between Moscow and the West is a neutral Ukraine’ (delfi.lt). Read more in DW: http://www.dw.de/russia-will-not-be-brought-to-its-knees/a-17630878/.

Timothy Snyder, American historian, in his fabulous article said that ‘Even as Europeans follow with alarm or fascination the spread of Russian special forces from Crimea through Donetsk and Luhansk, Vladimir Putin’s propagandists seek to draw Europeans into an alternative reality, an account of history rather different from what most Ukrainians think, or indeed what the evidence can bear. Ukraine has never existed in history, goes the claim, or if it has, only as part of a Russian empire. Ukrainians do not exist as a people; at most they are Little Russians. But if Ukraine and Ukrainians do not exist, then neither does Europe or Europeans. If Ukraine disappears from history, then so does the site of the greatest crimes of both the Nazi and Stalinist regimes. If Ukraine has no past, then Hitler never tried to make an empire, and Stalin never exercised terror by hunger.‘ (Lithuanian National Radio and Television). Read more in New Republic: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117692/fascism-returns-ukraine.


May 9, 2014 Lithuanian media round-up

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, on May 9th said that ‘Putin’s failure to de-escalate situation in Ukraine will lead to further international sanctions.’ (15 min.lt)

On May 9th a protest against Russian aggression and occupation of Crimea was organized at the Russian embassy in Vilnius. People came to the protest with Ukrainian, Lithuanian, US flags and NATO symbols. Some also had posters with slogans directed against Russian policy and military actions in Ukraine, asking why criminals and torturers deserve higher pensions from Kremlin (a recent decision by Vladimir Putin). (ELTA)

May 6, Lithuanian media round-up

On 6th of May Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė met with the former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox. The Lithuanian head of state and the Irish politician, co-head of a European Parliament special mission in Ukraine, reviewed the results and prospects of the EU’s Eastern Partnership programme, talked about the situation in Ukraine and its implications for international security (Press Service of the President, BNS). Read more in Lithuania Tribune: http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/67643/cox-ukrainian-crisis-one-of-eus-biggest-challenges-201467643/.

On  5-6th of May Vytautas Leškevičius, the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, attended a session of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Vienna. He encouraged the organization to oppose Russia’s political, economical and military aggression against Ukraine and finally to take strict actions implementing Geneva agreement. Vytautas Leškevičius said that ‘Russia’s occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea, continuous attempts to destabilize the situation in Eastern Ukraine, as well as regular threatening to Ukraine and other neighbors is an existential challenge not only to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, but also to this organization and for all of Europe’s human rights, democracy and law.’ (Ministry of Foreign Affairs information, ELTA, delfi.lt )

On May 6th Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė, vice-president of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, expressed his concern about Russian note regarding stopping to inform Lithuania about military units in Kaliningrad. She said that ‘Kremlin demonstrates that all international agreements and treaties is only a game for Russia and that Kremlin is determined to break into pieces all European security architecture, which was created after World War II.’ Vilija Aleknaitė-Abramikienė also thinks, that Lithuanian society and government institutions, including Ministry of National Defense, couldn’t stay calm any more. (Lithuanian Parliament Press Office, BNS, ELTA, unofficial translation)

On May 6th Rimantas Šadžius, Lithuanian Minister of Finance, said that ‘Russian-Ukrainian conflict will have a limited impact on the Lithuanian economy’ (BNS, 15 min.lt, Lithuanian National Radio and Television). Read more in Lithuania Tribune: http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/67656/russian-ukrainian-conflict-to-have-limited-impact-on-lithuanian-economy-201467656/.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, in an interview to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper said that there is a threat that conflict in Ukraine will reach the point of no return and it becomes a start of war in Eastern Europe (15min.lt, delfi.lt). Read more in Lithuania Tribune: http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/67666/frank-walter-steinmeier-giving-up-is-not-an-option-201467666/.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, in a press conference said that would be a pity if Russian President uses the celebration of the Victory Day to visit Crimea. (15min.lt, delfi.lt)

April 24, 2014 Lithuanian media round-up

Today Lithuanian Parliament accepted the resolution on the situation in Ukraine, condemning any form of Russian aggression in Ukraine and stressing the importance of dialogue between the two parties. Both countries (Russia and Ukraine – ed.) were encouraged to create a dialogue and withstand actions such as promotion of separatism and blackmail in Energy Sector, which could complicate the search of an internationally lawful, peaceful and eligible solution. Resolution was supported by 49 members of parliament, 1 against and 8 abstained. Read more in Lithuania Tribune: http://www.lithuaniatribune.com/67139/seimas-resolution-demands-withdrawal-of-russian-troops-from-ukraine-201467139/.

Today Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė together with 8 other EU Presidents and Eastern Partnership states are participating in the anniversary event marking 5 years of Eastern Partnership in Prague. Swedish Deputy Prime Minister, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and European Commissioner Štefan Füle is also participating in the event. During this Summit the situation in Ukraine was discussed and it was decided to give 11 billion euros in support of implementation of important reforms in Ukraine over the next few years. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Andrii Deshchytsia has also discussed questions regarding Ukrainian security and economic situation and stated: ‘The stronger the democracy in our East neighborhood the more secure we will become’. (Press Service of the President, unofficial translation)

Today Lithuanian Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Neris Germanas has met with with Alois Karl, the new Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the Baltic States. They discussed situation in Ukraine, EU reaction to Russian actions and energy and security issues in the region. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs information, unofficial translation)

‘Vkontakte’ founder Pavel Durov is invited to come and stay in Lithuania with his team by Lithuanian startup community. Pavel refused to cooperate with Russian Government and disclose Russian opposition and Maidan activists data so he was forced to leave Russia. (ekonomika.lt, delfi.lt, 15min.lt)

The invitation you can read here: http://www.eddy.lt/2014/04/pavel-come-to-lithuania.html.

Gabrielius Landsbergis: Russia must be stopped by force

Gabrielius Landsbergis

Gabrielius Landsbergis

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania

In the 2nd century B.C. Cato the Elder, veteran of the Punic Wars, was aware of the rapidly rising Carthage and was trying to convince other romans to do the ultimate trip to Africa.

To emphasize the importance of defeating Carthage, Cato used the phrase “Carthago delenda est” (English: “Carthage must be destroyed”) to finish most of his speeches.

Maybe it is not be absolutely correct to use this phase straightforwardly for today’s situation but based on the idea of the Roman senator, I declare that Russia must be defeated – stopped by force because it is not going to stop and its aggression is going to continue.

Politicians and analysts are discussing about possible scenarios of conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Both scenarios, one where Russia falls back and starts negotiations, or the one where part of Eastern Ukraine will be annexed by Russia, are essentially the same. Russia’s history and its imperial logic dictates one thing – Russia’s expansion goes on until it is stopped by some natural barriers or geopolitical forces. Russia was always focused on expansion, e.g. the Second partition of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, Stalin’s plans to march to Pyrenees, etc.

Current government in Russia, that considers the collapse of Soviet Union as a geopolitical catastrophe, is thinking about Russia in the same way – Russia must expand its territory. In the Western world we were to believe that after Cold War history of this kind is over. Unfortunately, occupation of parts of Georgia in 2008, was a cold shower for this belief. And those that were not convinced that Russia has serious plans to expand its territory, annexation of Crimea was a crystal clear proof that they were wrong.

Illusion of the End of History and Last Man by Francis Fukuyama was offering an opinion that the era of the conventional war is over – there will be no more territorial attacks, no front lines, declarations of war, ceasefires, and defeats. The end of the Cold War created an interesting situation where the winner was obvious – there were no doubts that USA was the winner, but there were no loser declared. Modern world, guided by the dogmatic idealism, decided that it is not fair to humiliate the loser, it would be wrong to force him to sign the act of peace treaty, or to force to recognize its criminal past and crimes against humanity.

This was a paradoxical situation in which the loser was not a loser. The closest comparison would be with Germany after WWI. This Germany was humiliated but it was not defeated. It was the key which let Hitler to spread the revenge ideology: Germany was never defeated, because such great force as Kaiser Germany cannot be defeated, and only temporal weakness was the reason for the humiliation. Isn’t it the same basic idea behind Putin’s claims on Yeltsin’s government? Yeltsin was weak therefore the mighty Russia was humiliated and had the economic chaos, etc. There are way more similarities between nazi Germany and Putin’s Russia.

There is a good reason why winners of WWII in 1945 didn’t want to take risks – all Germany was divided into 4 parts. Its capital Berlin was also divided into 4 parts. USA, Great Britain, and France didn’t want any compromises – total disarmament, Nuremberg trials, and division of the country were executed to make sure that there will be no debates on who have won the war. And only when winners decide that Germany is ready, the sovereignty will be returned.

I had a neighbor whose father was nazi soldier and after the war was sent to prison. Today this man is one of many german seniors living in Southern Germany. My neighbor told me that talking about his father is very painful because it forces to feel the shame and guilt. The man also said that it is hard for him to understand motives behind German citizens that were following Hitlers, and therefore killed millions. Nowadays, Germans are very peaceful, therefore completely different from Germans that were cheering Hitler in 1938.

Can we expect such a story from a russian person, when 50% of russians are supporting sending troops not only to Ukraine but also to Baltic states? In my opinion, “soft measures” taken against Russia will only give the feeling for russian people that someone is not completely fair with them. A common russian person who is strongly affected by governmental propaganda has an idea that Russia  was only giving a helping hand for Russian speaking people in Crimea, and was punished without a reason. He thinks that Russia needs to defend itself and to prove that Russia is strong and Western countries need to show some respect.

Unfortunately, history is still here and it’s not going anywhere. This is an era of realpolitik and geopolitics. Therefore, Russia must be defeated, otherwise it is not going to stop itself. If it is not stopped in Crimea, then it must be stopped in Eastern Ukraine or Transnistria, or Baltic states, or Poland, or… Sooner or later Russia will be forced to recognize the defeat and to face the reality. Defeat for Russia is going to be extremely painful – loss of territories, trials for the elite, confiscation of property, maybe even the collapse of the whole country. But only then we’ll be able to talk about the real Russian Spring.

Russia must be stopped for its own good. If Cato’s call seems too old, we can remember George Kennan. His policy on Russia finally was accepted as the right one. He was stating that “soviet force has no concrete plans and it takes no risks. It is not using arguments but it obeys logic of power. Due to this reason it falls back and frequently does it when faces serious resistance.” Now we, the Western world, need to follow Kennan idea, we need to enforce an effective strategy against Russia that would lead to the essential renewal of its mindset.