In the era of Napoleon’s France, such decisions as Dalia Grybauskaitė’s refusal to go to the Baltic and Polish state leaders’ meeting in Warsaw would have fittingly be attributed the quote: “It was worse than a crime; it was a mistake.” Moreover, since some mistakes tend to be bigger than others, Dalia Grybauskaitė’s move is a strategic mistake that could, in the long term, push both her and Lithuania to the sidelines of any high-profile political decision-making in the Baltic Sea region and NATO, Audrius Bačiulis worote in veidas.lt on 17 April.
A better understanding of how Dalia Grybauskaitė messed it up (unfortunately, this is the term that must be used to describe her action) takes a deeper discussion of the decisions that will be on the table in Chicago at the NATO Summit. On agenda is a decision that is of vital importance to Lithuania: the conditions of the NATO territorial defence funding cutback. The list of other long-term NATO issues included in the Chicago meeting agenda also features the Baltic air police mission.
To put it more simply, Lithuania, just as other Baltic states, has for some time now sought that the eight-year NATO air space protection would be considered as a constant NATO mission that would be planned decades ahead as compared to its current short-term operation status, which requires its extension to be negotiated every time it comes up with the central NATO leadership and member states. The goal is to make it a mission that would be on par with Iceland or the Atlantic Ocean’s protection from the Soviet submarines during the Cold War. Since the decision on the air police mission, as stressed by the leadership of the Alliance, must be made in the circumstances of all-out defence spending cutbacks, it is obvious that the Baltic states must present very serious reasons to rally the support of as many regional allies as possible. It is of particular importance to Lithuania, since, throughout its membership in the Alliance, it has been trimming its defence spending, leading to the country’s voice in NATO being heard with greater difficulty.
These are the strategic decisions that Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski invited Dalia Grybauskaitė, Andris Berzins, and Toomas Hendrik Ilves to discuss, i.e. co-ordinate positions, clear any misunderstandings, and ensure that the region speaks with one voice in the Chicago Summit. Notably, the countries were to agree that in times of crisis that the Baltic states and Poland would act and be protected under the same scheme.
These are the kind of NATO regional ally talks on common defence that Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to take part in. No specific explanation was given either to partners or to the people of Lithuania. Even part of the top-ranking state politicians and diplomatic mission representatives had to face the fact: the President is not going to Warsaw because she does not see a need for that. One should not take the unofficial rumours seriously that unnamed Polish politicians or diplomats allegedly link the Polish minority’s situation in Lithuania with Polish air force participation in the air policing mission. On the one hand, anything that is unofficial cannot call for a response at the state leadership level; on the other hand, if such an allegation would have any validity, it would be Lithuania’s defence interest to go to Warsaw to clear it up, negotiate, and persuade – something that is definitely above any personal ambitions of Dalia Grybauskaitė. This is the state leader’s direct obligation, which she simply refused to fulfil. Incidentally, it is not the first time that this has happened this year already.
Venting her bitterness at Warsaw, Dalia Grybauskaitė made three extremely bad things for Lithuania: first, even if indirectly but voicing doubt about Poland’s intentions of meeting its commitment to the Alliance’s Article 5 regarding collective defence, at the same time, the President questioned the entire NATO’s reliability as a collective defence organisation. Without a doubt, Lithuania will be reminded of that at the highest level on many occasions to come.
Second, the President demonstrated that Lithuania is not inclined to solve its disagreements with the allies by way of civilised negotiations but rather chooses kindergarten tactics: if you are acting like that, I am not playing with you anymore. This means that, from now on, nobody will talk to Dalia Grybauskaitė on serious matters. After the refusal to go to Prague to see Barack Obama, Dalia Grybauskaitė saw the Washington door shut and now all of the doors will swing shut. This means the door will shut for Lithuania, too, at least as long as Dalia Grybauskaitė is in office.
Third, the move deepens the gap between Poland and other Baltic states and shakes the foundation of the common regional defence. Due to Dalia Grybauskaitė’s decision, not only Poland, but also Latvia and Estonia will turn against Lithuania. Actually, the head of the state has returned to the disastrous policy that Antanas Smetona was implementing during the interwar period, which, unfortunately, did not let Entente the Minor, or the Baltic, see the light. Now we know that Moscow was paying Antanas Smetona for implementing such a policy. I hope it will take us less than five decades to learn the motifs behind the anti-state policy that Dalia Grybauskaitė is following.
P.S. In the process of writing the article, news came out that the Baltic-Nordic Summit, which was planned for half a year, will not be held in Vilnius in April. The key participants announced that they had other important affairs to attend to. Given the pace of the Baltic-Nordic co-operation in the past few years and being aware of the fact that this year Lithuania is its co-ordinator, this sounds like a sophisticated diplomatic mockery at the waverer with exaggerated self-esteem and lack of company manners.
Dalia Grybauskaitė has returned to the disastrous policy that Antanas Smetona was implementing during the interwar period, for which he was paid by Moscow.