1683939511 The West must cross more red lines in the Ukraine

The West must cross more red lines in the Ukraine war, says the Lithuanian President

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Wednesday at a hotel in Madrid.Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Wednesday at a hotel in Madrid.Jaime Villanueva

His exquisite manners are at odds with the poignancy of his messages. Over the past 15 months, Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda, 58, has become one of the Ukrainian government’s key allies. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, he has been demanding ever greater commitment from the West: more and better weapons for Ukraine and the adoption of new sanctions against Russia. The Lithuanian leader is urging members of the EU and NATO to ignore the so-called red lines and provide whatever support Kyiv needs to win the war.

On a recent visit to Madrid as part of a European tour to address the forthcoming Atlantic Alliance Summit to be held in Lithuania in July, Nauseda spoke to EL PAÍS after meeting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and ahead of a visit to King Felipe VI.

Ask. You have argued in recent months that the West needs to supply Ukraine with many more weapons. Don’t you think there’s a chance of a negotiated solution?

Answer. We are all interested in peace negotiations, but these peace negotiations should not be conducted at the expense of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the negotiations will be open and honest, and Russia is likely to seize the opportunity to consolidate its resources and reorganize the offensive. Both sides are too far apart to find a compromise on many issues. For this reason, I am currently not very optimistic about the chances of sitting around a table and discussing relevant issues. It is very important for an open negotiation to observe the progress of the Ukrainian armed forces on the battlefield.

Q What does Ukraine need to achieve these successes on the ground?

TO. I think Western countries are living up to Ukrainians’ expectations, but unfortunately we are very slow when it comes to important decisions. It took too long for us to cross the red lines. At first there were doubts about the possibility of sending weapons of any kind. Then one red line after another was crossed, like rocket launchers or tanks.

Q Which red lines must be crossed now? Modern fighter jets and long-range cruise missiles?

TO. Yes, I think these red lines can now also be crossed. And we should do it as soon as possible, because all the hesitations of the past have been a waste of valuable time. All that lost time means more broken lives and more broken infrastructure.

Q The European Commission is working on a new package of sanctions against Russia. What else can be included?

TO. Lithuania has always advocated even tougher sanctions and we would like to see that [state-owned energy company] Rosatom and its board were placed on the sanctions list. Diamonds and dual use [civilian and military] Greater efforts should also be made to prevent Russia from circumventing sanctions.

Q Do you think China can act as a mediator?

TO. China can prove that it can be a global player on the international stage, but only under one condition. She must condemn the war in Ukraine and say clearly who is the aggressor and who is the victim. From that moment, China could be very constructive in resolving this conflict, especially providing the forum for peace negotiations.

Q The next NATO summit will be held in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital, in July. What do you expect from this appointment?

TO. We have a very ambitious agenda for the summit. One of the main issues will be the implementation of all the agreements reached in Madrid last year related to the Alliance’s Operation Reinforced Forward Defense in the Baltics, which will be crucial for the defense of the eastern flank and will serve as a deterrent against unlimited imperialist ambitions of Russia . It’s also very important to find a commitment to the defense investment commitment and deal with the 2%. [of GDP] as a baseline, no longer as a ceiling. If we want to increase the production capacity of the defense industry and continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, we must further increase our military spending.

Another aspect is to bring Ukraine closer to the Euro-Atlantic security architecture. This does not mean that we will decide on Ukraine’s membership in Vilnius, but it should send a very clear signal to Ukraine that we have done our best to bring them closer to NATO.

Gitana's Nauseda, during the interview.Gitana’s Nauseda, during the interview. Jaime Villanueva

Q Lithuania is the EU country that has increased military spending the most over the past decade and one of the countries that has given Ukraine the most military and financial aid relative to its economy. Can this increase in spending be sustained as long as the war continues?

TO. Naturally. People understand that there is no trade-off between welfare and defense spending because they understand safety comes first. If there is no security, there will be nothing else at all. It is important to understand that Ukraine is not the last target of Vladimir Putin’s regime. There will be more goals. And these countries could be Baltic countries, Poland. But I can’t rule out any country in Europe that could become a target in the future.

Q Lithuania has been experiencing a migration crisis on its border with Belarus for almost two years. At the end of April, the Lithuanian parliament passed a law allowing immediate deportations without immigration procedures. How do you justify a practice that is contrary to international law?

TO. One must bear in mind that these immigrants are being used as leverage by autocrats, most notably by Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin. These vulnerable people become both victims and weapons for these autocrats. And to stem the flow of migrants, the only way is to take measures that discourage Belarus and Russia from engaging in these practices. In Lithuania, we were able to stop the arrival of migrants at the border, but observe that flights between Middle Eastern capitals and Minsk will soon resume [the Russian enclave of] Kaliningrad with the sole purpose of collecting these people and sending them back to the border and challenging our security systems. We see attempts at the border between Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. These are the target countries.

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