“I am convinced NATO allies will come to the defense of the Baltics.”

  • 2014-04-03
  • Interview by Linas Jegelevicius

50-year-old Arvydas Anusauskas, a stalwart of the Motherland Union and Lithuanian Christian Democrats, has been acclaimed as a prominent historian, publicist
and politician in the country. Historian by education, he had headed for 10 years one of Lithuania’s People Genocide and Resistance Center’s departments before clinching a seat in Parliament. Serving his second tenure, his focus has been on the state’s history. During his 2008-2012 parliamentary stint, he served as head of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC). With the Social Democrats winning the parliamentary elections in 2012, he stepped down, but remained a council member.

Speaking of the Ukraine crisis and its fallout, do you believe the European Union, Lithuania, the US and Ukraine have done everything to avert it? What has not been done? And why did it happen?
I believe the level of corruption in the-then Ukrainian government, as well as its dependency on Russia had not been properly evaluated. Namely the defiance of Ukraine’s interests has instigated the Maidan events.
Against the backdrop, the EU, US and Lithuania had limited possibilities to influence the situation. Economic support could not be provided to Ukraine without its approval. Just recently we all understood why the ousted president Yanukovych decided to keep relying on Russia.

How should Lithuania equilibrate in a crisis like that? I mean to safeguard our economic and defense interests, but, at the same time, to ensure the continuation of our obligations to the EU and NATO?
First of all, we have to understand clearly that defense of our country’s interests is not in any way separated from the obligations we have to the EU and NATO. To me it has to be an absolutely single cohesion of both. In other words, we cannot ignore Russia’s aggressive actions and close our eyes against the new challenges Russia poses for our national security.
I believe our state should clearly support, applying economic measures, our Russia-bound exporters in order to help them diversify their business and find new export markets. I believe those who opt out of that should assume all the risks stemming from the refusal. I also believe a larger funding of our defense will also become a response to the challenges that Russia raises.

Where do you believe the Ukraine conflict will lead? What are the signals the EU and the US send out in terms how far Russia will be allowed to proceed with the belligerent rhetoric?
I believe two signals are clear first as of now- the international law infringements by Russia will backlash against it and its economic development. As the stagnation of Russian economy had been quite evident before the violations, with the sanctions applied, the investors will start abandoning Russia, or stop investing into it, which will hit wellbeing of all the Russians at the end of day. On the other hand, with some of the international law lines overstepped, Russia will end up being in a circle of closed countries, like Iran or North Korea.
What I see that Russia obviously misunderstands the EU member states’ ability to agree on a single energy policy and, as a result, get rid of part of its energy resources. Sooner or later it will backfire against the Russian budget. In the light, the NATO reaction is clear and leads to enforcement of the organization’s eastern border’s defense.

Do you see any danger to the Baltic States?
Threats have always been out there. But now they are a whole lot more obvious not only to all experts, but also the public. But speaking of the measures aimed to target them, the measures we had taken while implementing our energy independence strategy now seem very timely and I am looking eagerly forward to the first results in 2015-2016.

Are you convinced that in a case of Russia’s aggression against the Baltic States, our NATO allies will strike back? What that would mean to the world?
I am absolutely convinced that the allies would not only come in our defense, but also would carry out all preemptive measures deterring Russia from making an aggressive stride (towards us).
On the other hand, I believe Russia underestimate the Baltic States’ defense potentials, which is sufficient not only to halt an aggressor, but also strike back against it painfully and tangibly.
A NATO strike against an intervention into the Baltics would, definitely, mean the start of a serious war to the world. However, there are signals of potential aggression, which are logged and which allow taking preventive measures on time. No doubt, the destabilization of Lithuania’s domestic situation would also play in favor of the aggressor, but even in that sense Russia’s possibilities are pretty limited.

The Lithuanian Armed Forces’ chief said a couple weeks ago that Lithuania “has means to fire.” But don’t you think that all the previous governments, as well as the current (one), have to share the responsibility of not having allocated a mere 2 percent of state’s budget for defense purposes, which is our core obligation to the NATO?
Not all the anti-crisis prevention-aimed solutions are good. To strengthen our domestic security affairs, Lithuania has re-established the necessary conditions for the country’s economic development, and, quite recently, has taken on the implementation of Energy security strategy. All of this is primarily related to our country’s defense capabilities. So to sum up, Lithuania does possess means to stave off an aggression. However, I admit a lot more should be done [in ramping up our defense]. The major-party-signed recent agreement on allocating for defense 2 percent of state’s GDP starting 2020 encourages to believe the political objective will be reached.

Do you believe the NATO Air Base in Zokniai and the NATO presence enforcement in the entire Baltic region suffice to deter Russia from aggression? What else does the region need to bolster its national security?
The NATO Air Policing mission has definitely been recently strengthened by US’s six additional F-15 fighter jets. In fact, all the presence of our allies in the Baltic region serves our defense purposes. However, the country has to be capable to defending its core defense interests itself. I believe Lithuania is ready for that, and the new armed forces’ program will serve the objective.

Don’t you think the lack of unity among the Lithuanian political parties also poses a certain threat to our security? You have to admit there’re different notions in Parliament on Russia’s military actions in Crimea.
I believe that the agreement on increasing defense budget to 2 percent of annual GDP starting 2020 allows us believe that there is unity among the parties when it comes to strategic issues.
On the other hand, indeed, there are some politicians in the ruling coalition who would like to flatter Russia because of a simple reason- to secure their-and their relatives’ or cronies’- business in Russia. I hope they understand they established their businesses thanks to Lithuania.

What do you believe there are other non-military actions that adverse exterior powers can use to undermine our interests? I have in mind how much they have influence on our media and industry to ill-affect our domestic and international affairs? Has Lithuania done everything to mitigate or eradicate the dangers?
Yes, indeed, the channels you mentioned are being influenced (by adverse exterior powers). However, I believe that Russia’s possibilities in that field are rather limited as they depend, firs of all, on our own political decisions.
I believe we’ve really done a lot in that regard. I mean to help our industry to find new markets. As of date, approximately only 5 percent of all our production goes to Russia. After we reach strategic objectives in securing our energy independence, the dependency on the Russian import of natural resources will decrease twice. Every Russian economic blockade of our goods makes our business and investors to choose less risky and more stable markets.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has recently rebuked Lithuanian Sate Security Department (LSSD) for not quite efficient its work. Do you share the head-of-state’s concerns?
I believe that our politicians should give the Department more necessary resources and larger legislative means. But we have finally to understand that not only the LSSD is responsible for Lithuania’s security. Every politician and each citizen of Lithuania are responsible for it.
In other words, the national security in that sense depends whether we will remain ignorant to Russia’s information attacks against Lithuania, or we will cordon them off.
I believe that in every case the State Security Department informs about them, or about involvement in them in any form of our media, our politicians and businessmen should refuse in those media channels any advertisement and respective institutions should terminate all the contracts with the media as far as the financing of EU-supported program publicizing is concerned, et cetera.

The Lithuanian President has also announced that the Labor Party leaders will not be allowed to participate in defense-related hearings in the President’s Office. Do you support her stance in that regard?
I believe that the Labor Party’s factual leader and his closest environment have to prove their loyalty to Lithuania. Unfortunately, their actions have been directed in an opposite direction so far. I have in mind the party’s procrastination of the legal process over the off-balance sheet accounting and, sure, the party’s factual leader’s (Viktor Uspaskich) business development in Russia.

What are the other threats that the NSDC would like to heed?
I think that all major threats are related to the continuous reliance on Russian energy resources. I do not want to delve into the issue again. I just want to say in that regard that Lithuania will have to ramp up creation of sources of its own energy generation. I believe a nuclear power plant would serve the interest best, but we all should strike accordance on that with the public.

What kind of Europe do you see in a year from now?
I see it more united and passing decisions faster with the new EU leaders. I’d also hope we will have a more single foreign policy.