By Henry Hullah, CNN
NATO and Western sanctions are not doing enough to deter the Russian policies that they were made to target, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“We are reacting, in my view, a bit too slowly and missing targets because we have this list of so-called targeted persons - but more than half of them have nothing to do with the decision making process in Russia.”
“We’re really not acting enough in my view.”
The Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are a lot closer to the issue than other NATO members. They are tiny neighbors to a giant, and increasingly aggressive, Russia.
Even as the interview came to air there was news of Lithuanian fighter jets having to scramble to intercept Russia fighter jets that flew close to Baltic air space.
“Yes, they scramble, they react when it’s necessary,” Linkevicius told the program.
“Often the Russians are not violating any rules,”
“They can fly over the neutral waters, they can fly by the border - but look, I would compare it with the car moving along the highway without lights at two hundred miles per hour.”
“It’s really very dangerous. It’s not just increasing tensions but also a threat to civilization.”
With incidents requiring the scrambling of Lithuanian jets becoming no less frequent, what action can be taken to encourage Putin to abandon these policies?
So far sanctions have punished the Russian economy, fueling the dramatic fall of the Ruble, but they haven’t deterred the Russian policy that they’ve been targeting. What can be done in the Baltics and beyond?
“We have to stay united.”
“It’s really the only way to keep the pressure, and on the other hand we have to help the Ukrainian government because they are facing aggression from the outside. It’s a not a civil war as some are trying to present. It’s from outside. It wouldn't help them to seal the border.”
“It’s very difficult to discuss these issues, to negotiate, when you are denying what is obvious and sometimes some lies are spread and this is dangerous.”
"Let's just be consistent"
The Russian President has been flexing his military muscles recently going so far as to highlight Russia’s nuclear capability. Talk that has been amplified by NATO claims that Moscow has moved weapons that are capable of being nuclear into Crimea.
Did Lithuania’s Foreign Minister believe that this kind of engagement would have an impact upon the current tensions between Russia and NATO?
“None of the engagement strategies have worked so far. None of them.”
Will this promote engagement and discussion between the two forces in the future?
“There have been a hundred-plus efforts to engage Russia, to talk, to be nice and relying on the other side to do the same.”
“I’m not calling for an aggressive stance or sharp dialogue. No. Let’s just be consistent, let’s make clear our messages and implement what we decided to implement and that would be something, at least, for the beginning.”
“Because if we try to be flexible the other side would take it as encouragement, as a weakness.”
Ultimately, Linkevicius told Amanpour that his strong stance on Russia is not because he’s “Russo-phobic” - that on the contrary, he would like to develop a strong relationship between Lithuania and its neighbor.
“Who would like to have better relations than neighbors?” he told the program.
“Of course we would like to have [Russia] as a trade partner, an economic partner. But we believe that these relations must be based on values and principles, not just on the interests, and I’m sorry but interests are slowly disappearing from our vocabulary, which is a big mistake.”