Landsbergis said he would be surprised if an Iran nuclear deal ‘went ahead’
By Peter Aitken
Lithuania commemorated its entry into NATO this last week and its long-standing partnership with the U.S. as leaders look ahead to the increasingly complex security landscape developing around the world.
President George W. Bush visited the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius 20 years ago to welcome the country into the still-growing NATO alliance, applauding the character of member states to “stand in the face of evil, to have the courage to always face danger.”
“President [George W.] Bush made the most famous speech any American has ever made in Lithuania exactly 20 years ago,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview. “That was even before we were a member of NATO, and it was probably the most important security guarantee that we got before Article Five started covering us with its umbrella.”
And no time in the past 20 years has seemed more dangerous to Europe than have the past nine months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lithuania accepted approximately 67,000 Ukrainian nationals between Feb. 24 and Oct. 10. The country’s distance from both Ukraine and Russia does not provide much comfort since it instead borders Belarus, which has remained Russia’s staunchest ally during the invasion.
Landsbergis stressed the threat that Russia poses to Europe, but also Lithuania’s proactivity to remain prepared for what comes next.
“Definitely, there is no greater threat, geopolitical and military threat, than Russia,” he said, noting that Lithuania and some other neighboring countries tried to raise the alarm prior to the invasion’s start.
“Obviously, the thing is that the countries who share their border with Russia have little illusion as to what Russia really is even before the war,” Landsbergis explained, pointing to the 2008 invasion of Georgia and the 2014 offensive in Crimea. “We’ve always been asking for more attention to the eastern flank, too, so that it would be better defended.”
“Even though … we are doing our part, we still need more allied troops in Lithuania and other countries,” he added. “Considering the latest events, what we’ve seen happening in Poland just a week ago, we think that while we talk about reinforcement of [the] eastern flank, first of all, it has to be better air defense, better missile defense, because we believe that it would be … the first line of defense.”
Landsbergis agreed with reports that Russia has displayed no preparations to use nuclear weapons, but he assured that Lithuania is taking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric “quite seriously” and discussing precautions with regional partners.
But as significant a threat as Russia presents, Lithuania also has its eye on other countries that aim to change the “global rules-based order,” such as China.
Lithuania already found itself in trouble with China after allowing Taiwan to open a trade office in Vilnius, prompting Beijing to downgrade diplomatic ties with the European nation, including alleged discriminatory trade practices.
Beijing denies that it has blocked imports of Lithuanian imports, including any products with parts produced in Lithuania. Chip producer Brolis Group’s founder, Kirstijonas Vizbaras, told the New York Times that it made Lithuania a “toxic label.”
Landsbergis explained that the tensions preceded that move, with Lithuania blocking China’s ability to invest in vital infrastructure such as airports, rail systems and shipping ports.
The minister noted that “all of our major investors are either from the United States or from Western European nations, and I think that could be an example, because it’s not just that the political decision, it’s also a decision related to national security.”
“The PRC forced us to adjust to their extremely harsh measures, and in many cases, our businesses did the same, finding new suppliers and supply chains and strengthening their resilience in case these kinds of actions were to be repeated against us in the future.”
Landsbergis also praised the increased focus on Iran and its actions, particularly in light of the strengthening ties between Moscow and Tehran.
Iran has given some weapons to Russia, including drones, for use in the conflict in Ukraine, which has altered the potential effects of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) under the Biden administration.
Sanctions are “one of the tools and instruments that we have to do that,” according to Landsbergis. So I suggested stronger sanctions against Iran in the formats available to me in Brussels.
He continued, saying he would be “quite surprised” if the JCPOA “went ahead,” “I think that there is a new momentum to take up a bit stronger stance when it comes to not just the regime that we’ve spoken about, but also Iran.”
Reuters contributed to this report.