Home News Lithuania defends democracy and pays the price – Pierre Haski

Lithuania defends democracy and pays the price – Pierre Haski

by admin

November 24, 2021 9:56 AM

In the ring of world diplomacy the battle appears decidedly uneven. On the one hand we find Lithuania, on the Baltic coast, with its population that does not reach three million inhabitants; on the other, China and its one and a half billion inhabitants. Yet by reading the official Chinese media, Lithuania has become a country to crush.

“The poodle of the United States”, “a small country that puts itself in danger”, “Lithuania must be punished”: these are just some of the comments that fill Chinese editorials, accompanied by an economic boycott and a downsizing of relations diplomats: at the moment there is no longer a Chinese ambassador in Vilnius nor a Lithuanian one in Beijing.

This anger stems first of all from Lithuania’s decision to open a representative office in Taiwan a few days ago in Vilnius. Specifically, it is the use of the word Taiwan that irritates the Chinese. The Paris office, for example, is called the Taipei Representative Office, which is a city and not an entity that could be mistaken for an independent country.

In the front row
It may seem like a trivial matter, but it is on these kinds of symbols that Beijing is fighting to isolate Taiwan, hoping to make reunification with the Chinese “motherland” possible.

However, pressure from the Chinese regime did not have an effect. Instead of giving in, Lithuania has strengthened its position as a champion of democracy, with all the risks that this entails.

Lithuania’s determination also lies in its history

Today little Lithuania finds itself in the front row on several fronts: in front of Beijing but also in front of the dictatorship of neighboring Belarus. It is in Vilnius, in fact, that Belarusian opponents took refuge, starting with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, candidate against Aleksandr Lukašenko in the presidential elections of 2020. To “punish” Lithuania, last summer the Belarusian dictator used the weapon of the migrants, in anticipation of the current offensive against Poland.

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Passing through Paris, the president of the Lithuanian parliament Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen reaffirmed the inflexible position of her country: “Lukashenko is not president, we do not argue with him”. In short, the blackmail of Minsk did not work.

Getting to know the dictatorship
Where does this Lithuanian determination come from? Part of the answer lies in this country’s history. Čmilytė-Nielsen, a great chess teacher devoted to politics, is in Paris to celebrate on November 24, in the company of her counterparts from Estonia and Latvia, the centenary of France’s recognition of the independence of the Baltic states.

Of course, this independence went through a long period, between 1939 and 1991, when the Baltic states were occupied by the Soviets. These peoples, therefore, are well aware of the dictatorship.

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But it is also a question of international positioning: Lithuania is part of the European Union and NATO, and considering its threatening neighbors it believes it needs life insurance. Vilnius’ steadfastness towards China (Lithuania was the first country to abandon the 17 + 1 Chinese forum created by Beijing in Europe) is well seen in Washington. Furthermore, the Lithuanian government will send some soldiers to the side of the French army in the Sahel, a gesture much appreciated by Paris.

“Little Lithuania”, as the Beijing media define it, is playing the game of the big ones. And the Chinese mega-power does not scare her.

(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)

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