20 April 2018, Friday, 10:00

Visit of James Mattis to Lithuania - a Signal for Russia and Belarus

James Mattis

The other day the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Lithuania.

The Lithuanian political scientist Mariusz Antonovich told Charter97.org what that visit meant for the Baltic States, Belarus and Russia.

- In your opinion, what are results of the visit of US Defense Secretary James Mattis to Lithuania?

- First of all, the United States once again assure the Baltic states of the fact that they intend to adhere to previous commitments. Moscow also has a signal that any activity against the sovereignty of the Baltic States will face a stiff push-back from Washington DC.

- Does the visit of James Mattis mean that concerns about no role of the Baltic region for Donald Trump and his Administration failed?

- I think it's too early to make such a conclusion. Most likely, American institutions and members of the Trump team forced him to abandon isolationism and continue to provide further assistance to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia within NATO.

- Does this mean that the region is in the focus of the White House again?

- While it is obvious that there is an interest, it is quite strong and will not decrease any more. In turn, increased attention can be expected in case if Moscow begins to pursue a more aggressive policy.

- During his visit, Mattis mentioned that the United States were ready to deploy ABM systems on the territory of the Baltic countries. Are Mattias' words the next signal to the Kremlin or are the US really ready for such a step?

- Such a signal would be a bluff without readiness to deploy ABM systems. Both Moscow and Washington DC are aware of it. It is quite possible that some elements of the USA ABM systems will be deployed in our regions amid Russian-Belarusian military trainings West-2017 planned for the end of this summer and the beginning of the autumn.

- How can Moscow and Minsk react to this decision?

- Moscow, most likely, will use it for its propaganda purposes, in order to demonstrate "hostile" intentions of NATO and to unite the Russian society around the Putin regime. It is possible that Russia will take advantage of this opportunity to implement the long-planned redeployment of military forces in our region.

In turn, elements of US ABM systems in the Baltic countries mean increased pressure on Minsk in order to obtain permission to deploy similar Russian ABM systems on the territory of Belarus. I guess the regime in Minsk will try to avoid this, therefore, most likely, we should expect statements from Lukashenka that US ABM systems in the Baltic region do not pose any threat. All this will happen against the backdrop of the alleged neutrality of Belarus.