Putin's appetite won't be satisfied by Ukraine or Baltics, Nauseda warns in Paris

  • 2024-03-13
  • BNS/TBT Staff

PARIS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda warned in Paris on Wednesday that Europe will not avoid a broader war by passively observing bloodshed on its doorstep as neither Ukraine nor the Baltic states or Poland will satisfy Russia's territorial ambitions.

In his speech at the opening of the Paris Defense and Strategy Forum, Nauseda said that it is a "fundamental mistake" to believe that Putin's Russia can be appeased by conceding territories. 

"No, the broader war in Europe will not be avoided by sitting quietly and not interfering in the bloodshed Russia is committing in Ukraine," the president said.

"Just as Czechoslovakia did not satisfy Hitler, Ukraine would not satisfy Putin. Neither would the Baltic States or Poland. None of the European states are safe at the moment!" he said.

The president also cautioned against believing that Western democracies can be safe "under the umbrella of nuclear weapons" while being "surrounded by an ocean of tyranny". 

"If we cannot stop Russia's aggression in Ukraine, Russia will exert its power even more forcefully in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Others will learn the lesson that using force against Western interests works. The price for our security will go up. And it might become unbearable," he said. 

The Lithuanian leader reiterated that the West's indecisiveness "fueled Putin's ambitions – and his greed for more". 

Nauseda noted that Putin "openly justified Nazi Germany’s aggression in his recent interview with US journalist Tucker Carlson and that Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's former president, "openly threatens the genocide of the Ukrainian people".

"Nuclear annihilation threats are flung at other states, both nuclear and non-nuclear, from different levels of Russian leadership. In fact, threats like these have become almost an everyday occurrence," the Lithuanian president said.

"But these statements cannot be taken lightly or disregarded. We made this mistake before. Neither should these threats install fear and paralyze our actions. On the contrary – they should mobilize us," he added.

The Lithuanian leader underlined that the combined economy of Western countries is more than 20 times bigger than that of Russia and that the West's combined defense spending is almost three and a half times higher than that of Russia and China put together. The West also has more advanced technologies, he said.

"Russia will not stop. It can only be stopped. And it would be better for us to stop Russia in Ukraine, and to do it sooner than later. Because the longer it takes, the more costly it will be for all of us," Nauseda said.

"To help Ukraine win – to make it win – means producing adequate quantities of ammunition, armaments and equipment, and providing them on time." 

The Lithuanian president urged the West to step up defense spending and ensure finances for long-term procurement plans to boost the defense industry. 

Nauseda described the EU's European Defense Industrial Strategy as "a welcome step forward" and called on the European Investment Bank "to increase the scope of its activities and improve access to finance for our defense industry companies".

"It is in all our interest to prioritize the delivery of ammunition and weapons to Ukraine and European countries. Supporting Ukraine is not charity. It is an investment in our own security!" he said. 

At a bilateral France-Lithuania Defense Industry Forum held on the sidelines of the main event, Nauseda highlighted Lithuania's potential, saying that its companies have the trust and contacts in Ukraine and "an advantage developing technologies and innovations that prove their worth at the frontline battles" in the country which is fighting back against Russia's aggression. 

"We can provide high-end solutions for security applications, including various ICT and engineering solutions. I see it as an integral part of our general effort to modernize and diversify the national economy," the president said.

"Advanced and innovative manufacturing and services, military technologies – all of these and many other sectors represent areas where the French and Lithuanian business communities could successfully cooperate," he added.