Putin is Stalin and Hitler in one person.
The Kremlin and Russian propaganda continue to openly threaten Lithuania. Lukashenka has also joined in the blackmail of Vilnius, which adheres to European sanctions and has stopped the transit of prohibited goods to Kaliningrad. How serious are these threats? Charter97.org discussed it with Rasa Juknevičienė, a member of the European Parliament and former defense minister of Lithuania.
- After February 24, when few people believed that Russia could wage such a terrible and widespread war against Ukraine in the center of Europe, one cannot turn a blind eye on it.
Back in 2009, during the West military exercise, they were practicing the Breakthrough scenario, when two military groups in the Kaliningrad region and Belarus joined together. There was always something similar to it during subsequent exercises.
I look at it in a broader sense: the Kremlin channels now talk a lot about nuclear weapons, that they will make Britain drown, may launch an attack against the United States, without even considering Lithuania.
Back then, when the Baltic states and Poland were joining NATO, it was clear that this little piece of land was a geographically and geopolitically sensitive place. But then everyone thought life in Russia would somehow go in a normal way.
The background is as follows: there is nothing new about it. The new thing is that more people are hearing about it now, but there is nothing new about it for the military and politicians who have been involved in Lithuanian security and worked in NATO.
As for developments at the spot, I have no reconnaissance data (I don't take those positions right now), but I can discuss information from open sources. There is no new information that Russia is increasing its presence with respect to military personnel around the Baltic states. On the contrary, both in the Kaliningrad region and elsewhere, they are reducing the number of military personnel because they need them to attack Ukraine.
As for the Kremlin intentions to use the strategic weapons they have - no one knows, and the question remains open. February 24th proved that anything can happen.
- And from the military point of view, do they have forces to break through the Suvalki corridor?
- They do not have them to do it now, to occupy this territory. NATO is continuously monitoring the situation round o'clock.
- Putin says Belarus will receive Iskander-M missile systems within "the next few months," which can carry missiles "in both conventional and nuclear versions." Is this an intimidation or a change of the situation?
- We should understand that the Kaliningrad region, Pskov, other places on the perimeter with NATO have Iskanders. One says Belarus had them even before this statement. The situation is not changing that much. The range of the Iskanders is 500-600 kilometers. Their number will increase, but this is not new.
I guess these are just threats. Why is it being done? I assume the Kremlin intend to carry out so-called de-escalation through escalation: when you threaten and think someone will get scared and start helping Ukraine less or reduce the sanctions pressure, or it will weaken the containment policy.
I take it as a complex of measures: bombing of cities in the rear of Ukraine, a tragic and terrorist, I would say, act in Kremenchug, talks about Belarus, disinformation attack against Lithuania. Lithuania has not stopped any transit but only carries out the sanctions. However, reports say: "Lithuania has stopped something", "Lithuania is doing something".
So, we observe this escalation. They have already used such tactics during the West exercises We now witness it in reality not within the exercise. In the exercise scenario, they threaten with nuclear weapons during some conflict and then the other side retreats out of fear. I think we've reached that stage now.
- Sometimes I can't even believe we are discussing such topics: the possible strike from Belarus, nuclear threats. When will it all end?
- We must win. Everyone wants the war to end tomorrow. For Peskov, the end of the war is when Ukraine surrenders. For Ukraine, the end of the war is when Ukraine liberates all territory.
In the West, I think there are different points of view. There are those who think we should go all the way, help Ukraine win this war. There are those who think that we should act as quickly as possible and maybe Ukraine can somehow decide to lose its territories.
- Looking at the situation through the eyes of the Lithuanian defense minister, what scenario seems most likely?
- I don't know what will happen. I can tell what I want: we should do our best to defeat Putin. To me he is Stalin and Hitler in one. This is a huge threat, because if there is only a half-victory or a draw, if Ukraine has big territorial losses, if there is a weakening of sanctions on the Western side, if there is no continued containment of such a monster, he will come again in a few years.
I believe we must do our best to defeat this monster. No one is talking about Lukashenka now, but everyone understands that Lukashenka and Putin are twins.