Valdus Adamkus, president of Lithuania, had an interview with the Financial Times today. Since the invasion of Georgia and the gas war with Ukraine, the Baltics have become an area of grave concern, where some feel as though they are next on the list for an attack of some sort from Moscow. Depending on how one wishes to interpret the motives, the invasion of Georgia was a “humanitarian intervention” and the supply cut off a “purely commercial dispute.” But for other EU countries sharing a border with Russia, there seems to be a greater focus on the practical outcomes of these events – that both governments of Tbilisi and Kiev are on the verge of being toppled (in the case of Ukraine, collapse seems imminent given the financial crisis). As such, we should be paying very close attention to how the Baltic states handle relations with Russia in coming months, and hope that the rest of the EU does as well (though there are few reasons for optimism on this front).
Mr Adamkus was speaking on the eve of a security conference in Lithuania attended by officials from the US and EU states. His views reflect criticism of Russia that is often aired in the EU but seldom voiced so strongly for fear of offending Moscow. Now ending his second presidential term, he is a popular leader who spent much of his life in exile in the US, where he served as a senior government official before returning to his native country in the 1990s.
The presidentrejected suggestions that Nato enlargement should be postponed for along time because of Ukraine’s internal political divisions and theconflict in Georgia last summer. Nato agreed both countries could befuture members but rejected their bids for membership action plans -pre-accession agreements – for fear of annoying Russia.
MrAdamkus said Nato’s expansion was a better way of developing “peacefulco-existence in Europe” than the alternative offered by Russia, whichwas extending its plans to “dominate” the region. “I believe thatsuperpowers should not exist in the present world [in this region]. Ibelieve that if we are concerned about the future [we should focus on]cooperation not domination.”
Mr Adamkus acknowledged that theevents of the last year had made the people of the Baltic states feelmore vulnerable to Russian pressure. But he rejected suggestions thatNato should respond by establishing a Baltic base. The current policyof military air patrols was sufficient, he said.