2019.12.09 09:00

Lithuania's foreign policy wobbles under Nausėda – analyst

Ronaldas Galinis, LRT.lt2019.12.09 09:00

If European security rests on three pillars, Lithuania insists on hugging just one and ignoring the others, a political scientist says, arguing that continuity in Vilnius' foreign policy is turning into inertia.

The three poles of power in Europe are Germany, France and the United Kingdom, but Lithuania, it seems, is putting “all eggs into one German basket,” Eglė Murauskaitė argued during the annual Lithuanian political science conference on Friday.

Speaking at the same event on Friday, Dovilė Jakniūnaitė from Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science presented a survey of experts on Nausėda's presidency so far.

Nausėda's approach to Belarus was rated the highest by 12 out of 23 analysts. Poland and the high number of foreign visits came second with five votes each, followed by Nausėda's speech delivered at the UN in September.

Meanwhile, the focus on Germany makes Lithuania's foreign policy quite unbalanced, particularly since France is increasingly taking over the initiative, said Murauskaitė.

With Chancellor Angela Merkel set to leave power in 2021, France's Emmanuel Macron is more than willing to take over leadership in Europe, Murauskaitė says, and Lithuania is not ready for that. Its passive approach towards relations with one of Europe's power brokers is the weakest point in Vilnius' foreign policy effort.

“I was amused by one instance [that showed] how we are deceiving ourselves about having balanced relations,” Murauskaitė says.

When discussing its ties with France, the Lithuanian government points out that French fighter jets take part in NATO's Baltic air policing mission, while Lithuania sends troops to a mission in Mali.

“Hurray, a balance, but [...] in fact we take part in a United Nations mission and we do it under Germany's leadership,” Murauskaitė notes.

President Gitanas Nausėda's triumphalism after the recent NATO summit is “nothing less than burying head in the sand”, she believes.

The president rejoiced that the Alliance reaffirmed in a joint declaration that Russia remained a threat. However, Murauskaitė says, Macron spoke about the issue in much more abstract terms, as “one possible problem among other problems”.

The circle of allies who share Lithuania's concerns about Russia is not growing and an alternative mood, one of willingness to improve relations with Moscow, is gaining ground. “There is nothing to congratulate ourselves with,” Murauskaitė warns.