The World Today for May 10, 2024


Proximity Politics


Few countries have supported Ukraine’s fight against Russia more than Lithuania, a former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea bordering Russia whose leaders have made eminently clear that they will live free of Moscow’s influence or die.

For example, earlier this year, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda announced a $215 million aid package for Ukraine – a hefty sum for a small country of fewer than 3 million people, Euronews reported. The money will pay for ammunition and other military hardware.

Meanwhile, a battalion of American soldiers will remain indefinitely in the country to ward off potential Russian aggression, wrote the Kyiv Independent. Nausėda recently also made it easier for foreign defense firms to open and establish operations in the country, added Defense News. The president wants to avoid any shortage of guns and bullets if the Russians cross the border.

Lithuania as well as Poland – two countries that once formed a powerful united commonwealth that controlled a large chunk of territory now in Ukraine – have also pledged to help the Ukrainian government repatriate men who have fled their country’s military service, the Financial Times reported.

Who wins Lithuania’s presidential election on May 12 is therefore important on a European or even a global scale. The Lithuanian president is a non-partisan head of state, but the job is more than a ceremonial position; The president acts as commander of the armed forces and oversees foreign policy, among other responsibilities, noted the Associated Press.

Nausėda, a former banker who is running for re-election, is now expected to defeat his main rivals, lawyer Ignas Vėgėlė and Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė.

Vėgėlė, whom Lithuanian National Television and Radio described as a “vaccine opponent,” is running as an outsider and reformer. Šimonytė is also staunchly opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as she discussed with Business Insider. But, as the Robert Schuman Foundation explained, many Lithuanians feel she should have stepped down from her job before running for president.

Nausėda has made missteps. For example, he wrote a post on social media telling supporters who signed a petition to allow him to run for office that he would invite them to the coffee. “We will have a frank discussion about books, basketball, and the future of Lithuania,” he wrote. Unfortunately, as related by Politico, that offer amounted to a quid pro quo that was against the country’s election rules, and was criticized by the election commission and on social media.

The president then revised his offer – the invitation remained, but attendees would pay for their own java.

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