Lithuania and other countries in the Eastern block are looking for a clear and decisive message of support from the United States as Russian President Vladimir Putin tests NATO's decisiveness and tries to fill the “gaps of influence” created by the West's inability to protect international law and its own interests, said Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius in an interview with The Washington Times on Tuesday.
Linas Linkevičius
© DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

Mr. Linkevičius also said that Moscow is fighting an effective propaganda war against Lithuania and other former members of the Soviet Union, and that NATO has not responded with an effective message for Moscow.

Mr. Linkevičius encouraged Barack Obama‘s administration to take the initiative in expressing a “more coordinated voice” against Russia, which he says is playing by ”self-invented rules” and is trying to provoke confrontation to dominate smaller and weaker surrounding states.

Linkevičius said “we want the Americans to be as active as possible because that is the only solution to this situation. If the Americans are not active, it will be very difficult.”

According to Linkevičius, Moscow has multiple objectives. Vladimir Putin seeks to place a wedge between NATO and the EU and to spread Russia’s economic, political and military spheres of influence by fostering a union of smaller states controlled by Moscow.

The Lithuanian minister of foreign affairs expressed his fear that the White House seems to be controlled by advisers who fear that a stronger answer to Russia’s aggression would be understood as a provocation that would worsen relations with Moscow.

Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama
Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama
© AFP/Scanpix

Linkevičius was happy that the US administration imposed sanctions on Russia for annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, but he stressed that American politicians responsible for foreign affairs have misunderstood the reality that “if you say or do too little and too late, that can be provocative in itself.”

According to Linkevičius, Putin’s government started a campaign of checks and tests to see how much Russia would be allowed to do after its actions in Syria. Western states need to be more decisive in defending international law and to draw lines that Moscow could not cross.

The minister said “I’m not calling [on Washington] to be aggressive. For God’s sake, no, but to be consistent and clear, because the Russians are capable enough to get clear messages.”

According to Linkevičius, Washington could show its influence by resisting TV channels controlled by the Russian government, like Russia Today. It could do so by strongly increasing funding to programmes like Radio Free Europe or Voice of America.

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