News / Europe

    Lithuania President Warns of Growing 'Russian Chauvinism'

    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at the presidential palace in Vilnius, July 4, 2014. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
    Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at the presidential palace in Vilnius, July 4, 2014. (Vera Undritz/VOA)
    James Brooke

    In Lithuania, July is the season of song festivals but the country’s newly re-elected president, Dalia Grybauskaite, sees little harmony with her massive neighbor to the east: Russia.

    “Now, we see aggressive rhetoric, aggressive behavior, aggressive propaganda, and informational wars,” she noted.

    'Great Russian chauvinism'

    Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region has unnerved neighbors from Kazakhstan in the south to the Baltic states in the northwest. In an interview with VOA, Grybauskaite warned of a "great Russian chauvinism" within the Kremlin that is fueling the pro-Russian separatist rebellion in Ukraine.

    “The great Russian chauvinism, which is now increasing in Russia, mainly very much depends on the elite, who are trying to revive it. And this is very dangerous," she said. "So I['m] not much sure it will be over in five years, because it will surely be specific to President [Vladimir] Putin.”

    Both Grybauskaite and Putin have black belts in karate. Some feel that the Russian president may have met his Baltic match - on the verbal level, at least.

    On Saturday, Grybauskaite is to be inaugurated president for a second five-year term. As president of Lithuania, the largest of the three Baltic states, she is expected to take the lead in countering Russia’s regional ambitions. All three Baltic nations - including Estonia and Latvia -- are members of the European Union and of NATO.

    The Lithuanian president warns that interference in Ukraine this year marks a dangerous turn in modern Russia’s relations with its neighbors.

    “It is very worrying. And it looks like it’s not over. The same methods that are now used in Eastern Ukraine -- the same threats, at least not directly military yet, but informational, cyber. Propaganda wars already we are feeling ourselves in the Baltic states [and] Poland, for example. The military exercises also we do have on our borders, in the Kaliningrad region,” Grybauskaite said.

    Ukraine, along with the United States and its European allies, have accused Russia of allowing fighters and weapons to reach the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow has denied. Russia's government also defends its annexation of Crimea earlier this year, saying it followed what it has called a legal referendum in which Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. Both Kyiv and the West have condemned the vote as illegitimate and in violation of international law.

    The president said she has no doubt Russia has supplied sophisticated weapons to the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. “Some terrorist groups are supplied with military equipment, clearly of Russian origin, and clearly not from the market," she noted. "But specially provided, and very expensive also.”

    As in eastern Ukraine, the Baltics are home to a large Russian-speaking population. They have 1 million Russian speakers, or 15 percent of the total population.

    Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea

    President Grybauskaite sharply criticized the Kremlin’s moves to act against neighboring countries in the name of defending Russian speakers beyond Russia’s borders. She compared this policy to war justifications made by Germany prior to World War II.

    “We are seeing methods that have been used in the ‘30s of the last century starting to be used now in the 21st century," she stated.

    She said Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea woke up NATO. Since then, NATO troops have been rotating through the Baltics, training with local military.

    Lithuania’s leader said that her country is raising defense spending, aiming to soon hit NATO’s standard of 2 percent of a country's gross domestic product.

    Lithuania is also working to cut its dependency on Russia for all its natural gas.

    In December, a ship with liquefied natural gas is scheduled to dock in the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda. The ship has the capacity to import more than enough gas to meet all of Lithuania’s needs.

    To further cut dependency on Russian pipeline gas, Lithuania’s president urged Washington to approve exports of gas from the United States. Such a move would have political benefits, she said.

    “Today, we see America has responsibility, a quite global one, on security, on democracy, on peace. Energy is one of the tools to secure the peace, without military interventions. And instead of sending troops, you can send the gas, and you will do the same, you will secure the peace in the world,” said Grybauskaite.

    By cutting gas dependency on Russia and by strengthening defensive alliances with the West, Lithuania’s president seeks to preserve her nation’s independence in the face of Russia’s newly flexed muscle in the region.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Great Ukr from: Great Ukropia
    July 09, 2014 3:08 AM
    the dog barks - the caravan goes

    by: Inessa from: US
    July 08, 2014 9:58 PM
    Does she speak on behalf of the local corrupts? Yes, life is good for them. So, let destroy your security! You have suck enough people’s blood.

    by: vv from: Poland
    July 08, 2014 12:19 PM
    'Russian Chauvinism' ? What about Lithuanian chauvinism, what about breaking of minority rights?
    In Response

    by: vv from: Poland
    July 09, 2014 8:37 AM
    Russia is a bandit′s country but it does not change my opinion of Lithuania. Moderator did not public my last post so once again:
    Undersigned in 1994 Treaty between Poland and the Lithuanian Republic about amity and the good-neighborly cooperation speaks about rights of the minority. The Polish minority realizes also all criteria of the Convention of the frame-Committee of Europe about the protection of national (ratified by Lithuania in 2000) minorities, such as autochthonous, the compactness of the residence, whether the number of inhabitants, to use in the face her European standards in the full range.

    Still the Polish education is discriminated, does not succeed to introduce Polish, as the auxiliary language, Polish names cannot be written in Polish, and streets cannot have Polish names. During returning of the ground Poles are treated a lot worse than Lithuanians. The electoral law created is so, to diminish the power of Polish votes.

    I get the impression that the politician of Lithuanian authorities in fact pursues the depolonization Vilnius region (Poles in the Vilnius region determine over 60% inhabitants, and in the region Solecznicki - about 80%).
    For the comparison it is proper to look on inhabited by Lithuanians Polish Puńsk, wherein Lithuanian is visible at every step, are everywhere found inscriptions in the Lithuanian language, and children learn at school of basic and Polish secondary school with the lecture- Lithuanian language.
    In Response

    by: vv from: Poland
    July 09, 2014 6:57 AM
    Undersigned in 1994 Treaty between Poland and the Lithuanian Republic about amity and the good-neighborly cooperation speaks about rights of the minority. The Polish minority realizes also all criteria of the Convention of the frame-Committee of Europe about the protection of national (ratified by Lithuania in 2000) minorities, such as autochthonous, the compactness of the residence, whether the number of inhabitants, to use in the face her European standards in the full range.

    Still the Polish education is discriminated, does not succeed to introduce Polish, as the auxiliary language, Polish names cannot be written in Polish, and streets cannot have Polish names. During returning of the ground Poles are treated a lot worse than Lithuanians. The electoral law created is so, to diminish the power of Polish votes.

    I get the impression that the politician of Lithuanian authorities in fact pursues the depolonization Vilnius region (Poles in the Vilnius region determine over 60% inhabitants, and in the region Solecznicki - about 80%).
    . For the comparison it is proper to look on inhabited by Lithuanians Polish Puńsk, wherein Lithuanian is visible at every step, are everywhere found inscriptions in the Lithuanian language, and children learn at school of basic and Polish secondary school with the lecture- Lithuanian language.
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 09, 2014 12:58 AM
    Really? From Poland? Have you lost your everloving mind!!!! You can't be in Poland and tossing discontent towards Lithuania?? To compare Lithuanian chauvinism to Russia's??? No freaking way!!! You people should be focussing on the Soviet KGB Putin, NOT LITHUANIA!!!!!! No wonder there so many Polack jokes! After what Russia did to your country and your people???
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    July 08, 2014 11:54 PM
    If Russian system of government and business is superior why are so many of its former soviet neighbors looking for a different system that demands free press, free speech and examination of business and government by it own people?
    These former soviet neighbors have seen what the lack of public examination breeds. Perhaps they are just tired of the years of rot, rust and rubbish, that has piled up as corruption flourished and the natural talents and innovation of a people were strangled by a government afraid of the light of public examination. What healthy person wants to live in a dark, dank and decaying system when there is a chance to examine and build a more healthy system (even if the gas at first cost more) ? Let's see.....cheap gas and decaying government and society OR examination, open discussion, innovation, and a chance for a better future? Which would you choose?
    In Response

    by: Incarcer8ed from: U.S.
    July 08, 2014 2:26 PM
    Breaking of minority rights? Seems to me, if you are a minority living in a foreign country, shouldn't you follow its laws, rules, and regulations. In Lithuania, how are minority rights broken? You can work, travel freely, get educated, speak your own language...what's the problem?

    by: Vasja Pupkin from: Khabarovsk
    July 08, 2014 11:31 AM
    O Lord, open to all eyes! O Lord, save and protect civilians and militia! My God, stop the war in Ukraine!

    by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga region
    July 08, 2014 10:08 AM
    I wonder how deluded in her wordpouring is Lithuania’s president Dalia Grybauskaite. Or she thinks that the USA, Russia and its citizens are that much stupid to take seriously her rhetoric as a sincere and truthfull one. Even more, the President of the itsy-bitsy country thinks just of benefits of her snobbish compatriots by urging Washington to approve exports of gas from the United States, by saying that such a move would have political benefits. By she hides the truth or is completely blind for not knowing that cheap gas export from the USA will raise domestic gas prices inside the USA and will diminish the global competitive advantage for the growth of the USA’s industry.
    In Response

    by: Simo from: sydney
    July 09, 2014 3:26 AM
    Non-state invested gas companies wont help USA itself. There profits go far beyond lining any countries pockets. USA and there millions of military bases and ports (team Nato) should be turned into trade centres for Europe to fix who they don't want to trade with. National banks(American institutions) who lend credit to Europe to buy U.S.A gas in which they still import a large amount themselves is a joke
    In Response

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    July 09, 2014 12:52 AM
    Since being in Lithuania, and having neighbors back home from Lithuania, they dread the idea of ever being Russian(Soviet) again. I have seen with my own eyes that when you cross one state to another in the US, yu can't even notice unless your GPS or street signs tell you that you are in a different state. When you drive on the same road in Lithuania that crosses into Russia, you will see a huge difference! Even the neighborhoods in Russia, next to Lithuania look horrible! These itsy-bitsy countries that have gotten away from you Soviet Russians have prospered and developed their nations into a first world status!

    By the way, Gennady, Lithuania is not the only itsy-bitsy nation fearing the Soviet KGB Putin either! Congradulations, you Soviets stole Crimea away from Ukraine! It will be short lived. You will have to give it back..........bunch of thieves!
    In Response

    by: Wayne from: USA
    July 08, 2014 7:09 PM
    Don't worry about US gas. We have a huge surplus of it. We are actually burning it off and wasting it instead of capturing it and selling it. Natural gas prices in USA are about 1/10 what Europe pays.
    In Response

    by: Igor from: LA
    July 08, 2014 2:08 PM
    Just to make sure Mr.Putin's black belt is in Judo, not karate. I also don't think Russia wants anything to do with Baltic states. They are too small of the fish in the world pond to be even mentioned.
    In Response

    by: John from: USA
    July 08, 2014 1:39 PM
    USA exporting gas would raise domestic prices, but the idea that this is her motivation is misguided at best. Further, USA domestic prices rising would help the USA's gas industry because it can now earn higher margins on its gas. The only countries gas industry this would hurt would be Russia's. With their old, outdated system, and the inherent lack of competitiveness of being run by the state they would be left reeling. This would have political ramifications because Russia would no longer be able to shut off gas to countries around them as a political tool (at least not as effectively). This would also bring stability to the gas market. Russia has lost all credibility by using gas as a political tool (this is one of the reasons they had to give up so much to sign a pipeline deal with China). Russia, in short, is doomed to lose the little power it still has. Demographics, economics, an increasingly outdated military, they all work against Russia.

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