Lithuanian archbishop fears Russia attack on Baltic states


#1

I also posted this in Catholic News, since it is applicable to both sections:

catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/12/16/lithuanian-archbishop-fears-russian-will-attack-baltic-states/

Lithuanian archbishop fears Russia attack on Baltic states

**‘We’re in the front line, and Russia has made its intentions clear,’ says Archbishop of Vilnius

A top Baltic Church leader has voiced concern about possible Russian aggression against Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and appealed to Western Catholics to be better informed about the situation.

“We’re in the front line, and Russia has made its intentions clear. While we feel NATO’s support, we know the front could move forward if the international community fails to stand firm,” said Archbishop Gintaras Grusas of Vilnius, president of the Lithuanian bishops’ conference.

“What isn’t fully realised in the West is that the information and propaganda war which preceded the military action against Ukraine is very much underway here, too. There’s a high degree of tension, and everybody here knows how dangerous the situation has become.”**…

Archbishop Grusas told CNS anxieties were now high about a Russian move against Lithuania, which is bordered in the south by Moscow’s military base at Kaliningrad.

He added that Moscow had launched “sanctions and information campaigns” over the past year against his country, as it did after Lithuania declared independence in 1990, and said recent Baltic border incidents appeared to signal “new types of indirect aggression.”

“**The three Baltic states are relatively small countries, which can be pressured more easily than Ukraine,” Archbishop Grusas told CNS.

“Russia is a great country, with great people. But the desire to promote that greatness, perhaps with new empire-building, runs deep in the Russian mindset under President Vladimir Putin. They’ve expressed a belief they have a right to lands they once ruled.”**

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia became independent from the Soviet Union as United Nations member-states in 1991 and joined NATO and the European Union in 2004, gaining protection under the alliance’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee.

However, security concerns have grown since Russia’s March annexation of Crimea and military involvement in Ukraine, which triggered Western sanctions against its defense, oil and banking sectors.

Lithuania’s Defense Ministry has reported irregular Russian air and naval movements in the Baltic Sea, where NATO fighters were scrambled seven times in the first week of December.

A Vilnius University military historian, Deividas Slekys, said Western experts were “well aware” of current Russian activities, but added that political leaders appeared not to have fully grasped the seriousness of the situation…

Archbishop Grusas said: “Catholics need to pray for peace — but they also need to be well-informed and grasp the geopolitical situation.”

“The Cold War may be part of history, but we shouldn’t be naive or allow ourselves to forget about the past. One of the greatest dangers is being lulled into complacency, thinking we no longer have to work for peace,” he said.

It’s a source of solace that we’re members of NATO — the US has sent troops, so there are boots on the ground here in a visible and appreciated sign of solidarity,” Archbishop Grusas said.

“But from their many years of occupation and oppression, Lithuanians understand the Russian mentality — they know if you try to bargain nicely, it’s seen as weakness. There needs to be a strong, solid response.”

Catholics make up 79 percent of Lithuania’s 3.7 million inhabitants, according to official data, compared to a quarter of citizens in Latvia and less than 1 percent in Estonia.

All three Baltic States are home to substantial Russian minorities, numbering five percent in Lithuania, 27 percent in Latvia and 25 percent in Estonia.


#2

In my opinion, his fears are very well founded. Having presided over a bad economy, in which his supporters loot everything, Putin has little to offer Russians other than fantasies of national glory gained at the expense of others.


#3

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