The World Today for July 03, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Western Outpost in the East

LITHUANIA

One of Lithuania’s first post-independence leaders after the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Vytautas Landsbergis, recently had some choice words for officials in Moscow.

“Victory will come when there’s no Russian empire, or if it’s inseparable from Russia, when there’s no Russia. Russia has become a cancer of Europe and the world,” said Landsbergis at an event covered by national public broadcaster LRT. “If it is cured, the world may survive, but if not, it may lead to the destruction of the world.”

Under the direction of the monstrous Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in 1940 as per an agreement with Nazi Germany known as the notorious Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. Today, memories of 50 years under Soviet control have made the Lithuanians one of the most stalwart defenders of Western values on the periphery of Europe.

Lithuanian leaders never believed the so-called “end of history” thesis that gripped American and other Western leaders in the late 1990s, explained the Wall Street Journal in an opinion column. The thesis contended that the West’s victory would inspire democracy, free markets, respect for human rights, and prosperity to spread organically across the globe. Lithuanians, in contrast, always believed Russia was prepared to trample on those values.

Undergirding the Lithuanians’ sense of themselves is their deep history, including a medieval period that might be described as a golden age for the country. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania once spanned not only its current territory on the Baltic Sea but also Belarus, as well as sections of Poland, Latvia, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, as Coda recalled.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has inspired an outpouring of anti-Russian sentiment in Lithuania, France 24 reported. Ukraine’s blue and yellow flags hang in buildings throughout the capital of Vilnius. Lithuanian leaders have led efforts to supply Ukraine with funds, weapons, and other assistance. The country has even moved to strip a Russian-born champion figure skater of her honorary Lithuanian citizenship due to her participation in Russian competitions, Radio Free Europe added.

Around 25,600 Ukrainians now work in Lithuania, according to the Ukrainian public news agency, Ukrinform. Many of those people are presumably among the 40,000 Ukrainian refugees who have received asylum in Lithuania as the war has raged back home.

Lithuania’s stance has earned rewards. The country is preparing to build a $110 million tech campus that will be among the largest in the world, for example, CNN reported.

The country has much to lose, so will fight to keep what it has got.

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