Rimvydas Valatka
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The State Defence Council decided to send Lithuanian Special Forces to combat terrorists of the so-called Islamic State (IS). The decision is justified and politically important. It is a signal by Vilnius to its allies that Lithuania is not a dependant or consumer, but views its commitments to NATO seriously, Rimvydas Valatka writes on lrt.lt.

The time for such a decision was also suitable. After a series of terror attacks in Spain, failing to take such a step and only constantly talking of the Russian threat, Lithuania would have looked awkward in the face of the allies. Particularly those in France, Spain and Italy.

There wouldn't even be much need to talk of it, if not for one odd reaction. On the same evening, the TV3 news show presented its viewers the following "Question of the day": "Should Lithuania send troops to Iraq to combat IS terrorists?" The viewers could choose from two options: a) "Yes, it is a concern of the whole world."; b) "No, Lithuania is in no danger."

A helpful fool is more dangerous than an enemy. Such a survey fuels IS terrorists and the Kremlin propaganda mill. Does this mean that journalists do not have the right to doubt in the decisions of the State Defence Council? Certainly not. Journalists have to doubt everything.

However such a survey is not journalism, it is just a cheap manipulation of public opinion which harms Lithuanian national interests. Knowing Lithuania's geopolitical circumstances and our security depending on NATO allies it is comparable to a crime.

For a time now Lithuania is also protected by a battalion from the German Bundeswehr. There are also troops from Holland, Luxembourg and the Czech Republic serving in it. The US military has troops deployed in Lithuania as well. With Lithuania lacking military aviation, air police missions are being performed by Portuguese, Spanish, French and other countries' pilots.

Would we want to see Germany's major TV channels presenting a question like this to the Germans? "Is it worth sending German boys to die for Lithuania?" Response options: a) "Yes because such is NATO article 5."; b) "No because Russia is no direct threat to Germany."

And what if such surveys appeared in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, France and the USA? The same TV3 would be screaming out about it. So how is it that we are acting in a way we do not wish others to act against us?

You Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Frenchmen, you have to defend us at any cost, with nothing in return. Where does this idea come from that we, Lithuanians, are always a victim which needs to be defended, but are never an equal partner?

NATO article 5 applies to all members of the bloc. All member states have a commitment to defend one another and not just be defence consumers. Isn't it already enough that Lithuania never really complied with the commitment for 2% GDP defence spending before?

But perhaps Lithuania truly is increasing dangers to its people by sending the legendary Aras troops to combat terrorists? Perhaps by cunningly evading commitments to NATO we would escape danger?

Firstly such a position is disgusting and immoral. But even more importantly IS terrorists are not concerned with good things done to them.

On March 11, 2004 terrorist bombs exploded in and next to overfilled Madrid trains during rush hour, killing 173 and injuring over 600 people.

In fear and yielding to the pressure from those weak of will, the Spanish government conceded to the terrorists' ultimatum and withdrew its troops from Iraq. Did this protect the Spanish from last weekend's attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils where 15 people were crushed? And further casualties were avoided only because when the terrorists were preparing 120 bombs and blew themselves up.

Some insane imam in the town of Ripoll on the foot of the Pyrenees long trained a squad of terrorists to kill the Spanish, completely unconcerned that the Spanish government was so good to the terrorists.

A coward usually pays twice – through lengthy chilling fear and his life. Those who accept the challenge and do not cower behind their friends win. And especially those who do not shoot their allies in the back, as the survey on Lithuanian television does. Let us not given reason to celebrate for either terrorists or Kremlin propaganda.

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