Diplomacy á la Lithuania: cover provocations and consider neighbours as enemies

Геополитика и безопасность

‘And let them in Lithuania not sit like quiet mice. They must respond, why they allowed their territory to be used for the violation of national borders’

A.Lukashenko

Notwithstanding the proverb ‘let the bygones be bygones’, informational hysteria around the violation of Belarusian state border in airspace by a Swedish light aeroplane and subsequent flight over Belarusian territory is becoming annoying.

To tell the truth, we, the people once relevant to military art, are not much worried about the level, to which the relations between the republic and the monarchy were either elevated or dropped by already former ambassador in Belarus Stefan Ericsson. We are fed up with phony appeals both from masterminds of ‘teddy bear landing’ and their image-makers among democratic Belarusian mass media and from ideologists of propaganda about world conspiracy against our country akin to Yuri Prokopov, Vadim Gigin and Alexei Mihalchenko.

Obviously we are more interested in the future of Belarusian air defence system. Yes, they flopped and got busted. But there must be a way out of this situation. That is the topic for a separate serious talk and it seems to me that necessary funding and implementation of advanced modern technologies, including those already known to Belarusian military science, will contribute to national security.

Lithuanian ‘quiet mice’

Nevertheless, the position of our neighbours, especially Lithuania, remains unclear. It comes to be that their border was also violated twice. And it happened against a background of multiple evaluations of NATO air defence system efficiency. Remember that in a few days after the incident Lithuanian armed forces spokesman cpt. Skomantas Povilenis said: ‘On the fourth of July Lithuanian army spotted violation of national airspace regulations. Appropriate investigation is carried out. We cannot say if the violation of airspace regulations is connected to the incident mentioned by mass media’.

Note that in situation when media space became filled with tension, the first to break down was Lithuanian ministry of defence, not the one of foreign affairs. And the foreign office run by Audronis Azhubalis keeps on quiet even now, when Belarusian authorities in compliance with international law turned to Sweden and Lithuania for cooperation in investigation of the incident, qualified by Belarusian (among others) laws as a criminal offence. At this point one may agree with the following statement by the head of information and public relations centre of KGB Alexander Antonovich: ‘we state that as a result of unsanctioned flight of Swedish citizen not only were Belarusian airspace regulations violated, but also those of Sweden, Lithuania and NATO’.

In such a situation only the military of Lithuania continue to deny evident facts, led in their stance by chief anti-russian mouthpiece – the minister of defence Rasa Juknevičienė. August, 9 the chief of military department said, that the air space of Lithuania had not been violated. ‘There are always small private planes in Lithuania, they were in the country that day, but no violations were spotted’, – announced the minister in an interview to ‘Ziniu radijas’.

However there are still people in Lithuania, who honestly fulfill their duty and do not have any pledges to the masters across the Atlantic. Thus, deputy chief of Civil aviation administration of Lithuania Alvidas Shumskas said, that appropriate radar readout from state enterprise ‘Oro navigacija’ had already been given to the Department of national security. In particular it is established, that the plane appeared on July, 4 at 5 A.M. near Lithuanian airfield Potsiunai, held to the direction of Belarusian border, disappearing and reappearing meanwhile. At about 6 A.M. the plane was gone for good from the radar screens in Shalchininkai area. At 7.34 A.M. it reappeared in the very same area and flew towards Potsiunai airfield. It is also known that on July, 1 an aeroplane from Sweden landed at Potsiunai airfield and on July, 4 it flew away to Visby (a town in Gotland Island). Precisely the day, when the flight to Belarus could have taken place.

A.Shumskas considers, that the whole set of facts permits to suppose, that such a flight did take place and started at Potsiunai airfield. The above mentioned timing is confirmed by the data from ‘video series’ by a Swedish company ‘Studio Total’.

Hereof follows a very unpleasant summary for ‘a land of developed democracy’, of which Lithuanian Republic proclaims itself: the civil authorities of Lithuania have lost control over its security agencies, the system of parliamentary control over its armed forces is disrupted, Lithuanian ministry of defence discredited the country and made it look like provocateur.

Could it be so that diplomacy of this kind – with covering for provocations and fostering tensions with neighboring countries – has been firmly fixed in the heads of Lithuanian decision-makers? The latest facts could rather prove than disprove such a statement.

“Threats from the East”

First we have territory provision for border violation, and then comes a spy scandal. According to Belarusian KGB “Lithuanian military intelligence service resident Mr. F was detained while performing espionage actions. His agents who took part in the transfer of secret information were also arrested.”

Things go even worse with the Belarusian ally – Russian Federation. Vilnius can’t stop talking about its imperial intensions and militarism, which includes “military build-up in Kaliningrad region and in Western military district”. Looks like the knowledge acquired by Rasa Juknevičienė during her studies in the United States regularly plays its role in her statements on this topic.

From the very appointment as a chief of the Lithuanian military she has been actively propaganding this thesis about the existence of a direct “threat from the East” and necessity to deploy NATO troops in Baltic countries. According to one of her statements “when the risk comes true we need to be ready to accept NATO support so that our partners could deploy their troops here.” As a main threat to the Lithuanian sovereignty Rasa Juknevičienė points out “Russian aggressive policy towards Lithuanian Republic”.

Lithuanian minister’s “deep dissatisfaction” with the latest joint exercise of Russian and Belarusian armed forces “West — 2009” is also worth noting. “The scenario of this exercise is quite strange and recalls the Cold War times. It implies that NATO is an enemy which attacks Belarus from Lithuanian territory”, — she said.

As expected, Russian anti-missile complex S-400 deployment in Kaliningrad region was also noticed. Concerning this fact Rasa Juknevičienė declared that Russian intension was to decrease military security in Baltic region and split it from the rest of NATO countries with an air frontier.

Not Bronisіaw Komorowski but Bronislavas Komorovskis

With Russia everything is clear – “soviet occupation” must have stuck in the heads of some political figures in Lithuania. Belarus in its turn is often seen as an obstacle for the so-called western “values” promotion to the East. Then, one could suppose that things are different with other Lithuanian neighbors. Not so, as it turns out.

The conflict between Poland and Lithuania, which is dubbed the gravest one in the last 10 years, is growing fast. Recently it has affected military aspects of bilateral cooperation. In the run-up to the Chicago NATO summit talks activated in Poland about moving alliance’s Baltic airspace control military airbase from Lithuania (Zokniai) to Estonia (Дmari ). Polish jet-fighters Mig-29 are currently in charge of Baltic airspace patrolling.

This conflict was at the center of a detailed study “Estonia drives a wedge between Poland and Lithuania”, which is available on our website.

What is more, this divergence in military issues could be derived from mutual attacks in the field of policy. With the possibility of NATO airbase moving to Estonia, Warsaw is trying to put pressure upon Lithuanian leadership in matters concerning the rights of polish minority (protests against the demand to write Polish second names in Lithuanian manner). In its turn Lithuania gives as good as it gets: on April 17th the president of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite refused to take part in the summit of Baltic countries which took place in Warsaw, in addition at the end of May the Air Forces of Lithuania ignored NATO air force exercise “Baltic Region Training Event XII” .The maneuvers have been conducted since 2008 in Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian airspace and are organized by NATO Joint Air Force Command (Rammstein). They were designed to improve air forces combat training in favor of common NATO anti-air defense system.

In the case of “teddy bear landing” Vilnius have actually made fool of Warsaw. Now, it might be difficult to prove in Brussels that Polish pilots do their best when bearing in the air of Baltic countries!

Relations between Latvia and Lithuania are also far from being good. Specifically, Riga has left unresolved the fate of the energy project which is of great importance for Lithuania – Visaginas atomic power station construction. According to Valdis Dombrovskis, Latvian prime-minister, economic benefit is the main condition for his country’s participation in the project. “We are ready to say ‘no’ to the project if the country doesn’t see it profitable”. He also added that Lithuania has not yet answered some of the questions concerning the project that were raised by the Latvian party. What is more, Vilnius doesn’t look like it has an intension to harmonize with Latvia and Estonia a draft concession agreement with its strategic construction partner — Hitachi Company from Japan. The document is solely promoted by Lithuania and doesn’t include topics that are crucial for Riga.

Thank you for your warm words, Mrs Grybauskaite

So, what is the basis for such diplomacy á la Lithuania?

There is no doubt that Washington has a great influence on country’s foreign policy. The same can be said about Lithuanian ministry of defense. Many experts suppose that U.S. influence is designed to isolate Dalia Grybauskaite from handling political and military processes. With this purpose the authority of pro-american members of parliament as well as that of the country’s minister of defense is widely used.

There is no secret that the actual chief of the Lithuanian military got her political and state running education in Western countries, including the United States in 2008. Since nineties her work in Seimas was about cooperation with NATO. That is why promoting U.S. interests in the region might have become some kind of a lifework for this politician. It can be tracked clearly when she is trying to explain NATO forces presence in Baltic countries as a countermeasure against imaginary Russian military build-up in the Western military district and Kaliningrad region.

Worthy of noting are recent changes in the armed forces disciplinary statute, which were introduced at the beginning of March. According to the updates, the order of imposing disciplinary penalties was modified in what concerns major officers. Minister of defense got the right to lower military ranks of colonels and generals as well as firing them from military service.  These measures can as well be applied to the current Armed forces commander Lt.Gen Arvydas Pocius. This potency is nothing new; it was just alienated from country president’s powers.

It seems to be evident that, taking note of the situation, Washington protйgйs, which supposedly include current minister of defense, are looking forward to downgrade the role of the president of Lithuania. Dalia Grybauskaite did not fear to deny economic sanctions, imposed on Belarus, to meet with “the last dictator of Europe”, to declare the idleness of Belarusian opposition and, finally, to reveal information about bank accounts of the larcenous leader of Belarusian human rights center “Vesna” Ales Belyatsky.

Well, it seems that Lithuanian minister of defense Rasa Juknevičienė successfully manages her task of U.S. regional interests promotion, although to the detriment of the development of good relations with neighboring countries.

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