Re-engagement with Russia should be accomplished on the Western countries' own terms, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius claims in an op-ed piece published by the Wall Street Journal. While many would like to see a thaw in relations with Moscow, it is wrong to give into wishful thinking about Russia's benevolence and draw false analogies with détente of the 1960s.
Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius. Photo Ludo Segers

"There are some major differences with Europe’s situation today," Linkevičius claims. "The ideological divide during the Cold War was real. Today it’s just a Kremlin construct, invented by modern Russia to cover failures of reform. It’s not a serious alternative to Western liberal democracy."

Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union, modern Russia is a revisionist power that regards the post-1991 world order of reunified Germany and sovereign democracies in Eastern Europe as essentially unsatisfactory.

In the run-up to the Group of Seven meeting in Germany, the Lithuanian foreign minister says, there are voices advocating a 1960s détente-like reengagement with Russia. "But let’s draw the right lessons" from history, Linkevičius cautions.

"NATO’s capabilities should be based on sober threat analyses, not illusions. Anything that the Kremlin perceives as weakness will encourage it to press ahead."

"If we are going to re-engage Russia, it should be based on our values and commitments, not wishful thinking," Linkevičius continues. "NATO and the EU should be prepared for a long, drawn-out process and not give in just for the sake of a resolution."

While seeking to repair relations with Russia, NATO and the EU must not abandon Ukraine and other eastern partners.

"More broadly, we shouldn’t falter on NATO’s open-door policy and our ultimate goal of a Europe whole, free and at peace. We do not and will not accept the Kremlin’s 'new normal,' based on out-dated thinking about spheres of influence and a zero-sum mentality," the Lithuanian foreign minister writes.

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