Lithuanian Ambassador: ‘Putin Is Not Finished’
Following a short respite, parts of eastern Ukraine are once again at the boiling point.
Pro-Russian demonstrators have taken over government facilities, and have even declared the formation of a new “people’s republic” in the Donetsk region. Activists there asked Vladimir Putin to send in “peacekeeping troops,” and nato released shocking satellite images on Tuesday showing that Russia is well-positioned to fulfill the request.
The situation is fraught with tension, and the 1 million-ruble question remains the same it has been since Moscow brought Crimea back to the motherland: Will Mr. Putin go further, seizing more territory in Ukraine or other parts of Eastern Europe?
In an interview with theTrumpet.com, Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico Žygimantas Pavilionis said he thinks Putin may not stop grabbing up Eastern European turf unless the West stands up to him.
“Putin is not finished,” the ambassador said from his Washington, D.C., office during an April 8 telephone interview. “In his mentality, there are no limits of power. If you are obsessed with power, then if you see any obstacle, you try to destroy it. That is what Putin is trying to do.”
Like the nation of Ukraine, Mr. Pavilionis’s native Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union until its demise in the early 1990s. Now, Lithuania is a member of both the European Union and nato, and its citizens have no desire to return to the Russian fold. But since Putin’s annexation of Crimea, many in the Russia-bordering nation fear that their Western-alignment could be at great risk.
That fear was intensified last month after some 3,500 Russian soldiers started tactical maneuvers in the Kaliningrad region, just miles from the borders of Lithuania and Poland.
Pro-Russian demonstrators battle police as they try to besiege the regional council building in Donetsk, April 6.
Mr. Pavilionis says the worry should extend beyond Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe because Moscow’s aggression is not motivated only by a desire to expand Russian power. Instead, he says it is motivated perhaps even more by Putin’s desire to overturn the Western global order that America has labored for so long to build up and maintain. “It’s about the United States really,” he said. “Russian leaders are attacking the West, in which the U.S. is number one; they are challenging the whole order of democracy and order that the U.S. worked to build.”
When asked about the role of Berlin in standing up to Russia, Mr. Pavilionis said, “Germany has become more and more active in every front, and in a positive way.”
He said Lithuanians and other Europeans hope that Germany will take on even greater leadership roles in light of the conflict. “We are trying to encourage Germany to be more active in every sphere: energy, economy, also military and politics. Berlin can do more. Since things are becoming more like the 19th or 20th centuries now, we need to be brave. We need more strategy. If we employ all instruments we have at our disposal, we can defend against it.”
Mr. Pavilionis does not feel that Germany’s World War ii legacy means modern Germans should be reluctant to take action. “In the EU, we have a lot of guilt,” he said. “But nato and the EU are real miracles, and we have to preserve those miracles. We have to overcome old complexes and guilt, and reconciliation is key. We European states must wake up and reconcile; otherwise, they divide and conquer.”
He continued: “Germany is now a role model of reconciliation. And now we hope they won’t be so shy. They are the backbone of Europe, and they must spread their support around better than they have in the past.”
The ambassador said the Crimean crisis was part of a larger shift the modern world is undergoing. “We have new military decisions arriving,” he said. “We are now seeing democracies disappear from the map. Freedom is shrinking in big numbers, and authoritarian regimes are on the march. Freedom is being defeated, and the Russian invasion is on a global scale. If we do nothing today, we will regret it.”
Sacrifice, Mr. Pavilionis says, is at the heart of the strategy Europe and the U.S. must employ to reverse this shift. “We had better sacrifice something today—maybe some of our luxuries—before we have to sacrifice it all tomorrow.”
He continued: “They have global power in Russia, and arms with an extended reach. We had better contain them now before it’s too late. Do we have the guts to do it? [Former U.S. President Ronald] Reagan once said, ‘Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.’ Well, it’s our turn now to defend freedom.”
“We have to draw the line before the Russians move tanks on top of it,” he said.
Mr. Pavilionis’s candid and frank comments about Russia’s aggression are representative of the view held by many in Lithuania, Ukraine and beyond. The Crimean crisis truly is a global game changer. To understand what this geopolitical sea change means for Russia’s neighbors to the West, read Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry’s latest article, “The Crimean Crisis Is Reshaping Europe!”