Vytautas Landsbergis is an undisputed hero of the Lithuanian independence. In 1988 he was among the founders of Sąjūdis, a pro-independence political movement. In 1990-92 Landsbergis acted as Chairman of the Supreme Council of Lithuania. In 1996 he became Chairman of Lithuania’s parliament, the Seimas. Under his rule Lithuania struggled out of the USSR and set a course for European integration. But did Lithuania really secede from the Soviet Union? What should Lukashenka do so that Landsbergis could consider him as a peacemaker?
Would you tell us about the adoption of the act of independence in the Supreme Council of Lithuania 25 years ago? Did Lithuanians expect Moscow to declare such a strong blockade of their country?
We did not expect anything at all. We were doing our job; we were destined to do it, and that was our internal decision. We did not waste time on thinking about what top Moscow officials would undertake.
What concessions could dissuade the country’s Supreme Council from leaving the Soviet Union?
First of all, we did not secede [from the Soviet Union]. We even denied such option. I vividly remember an old man who came from the village to the Parliament. He was like some fairy-tale character; he felt concern about it. It is them who must withdraw [ he said because once the USSR occupied Lithuania – Belsat].
In 1990, Sąjūdis swept to a landslide in the elections to the Supreme Council. At the same time the opposition to the Communists won only 10% of the vote in Belarus. In your opinion, what is the difference between the Belarusians and the Lithuanians. Why do the Belarusians keep aloof?
It’s not up to me to judge and guess; I have no time to carry out historical and sociological research either. You should do this at home – you should study what happened then and improve the situation for the future in order to avoid a repeat of the situation when only 10% of the population are in favour of independence. I can assume that your intelligentsia was repeatedly destroyed. People are depressed and accustomed to the fact that the leaders taking all decisions are in Moscow and they should only be obedient. This might have struck its roots deeper in your country and community than in ours. Lithuania gained its spirit of rebellion, disobedience or mood to do something of its own much earlier – I do not mean uprisings of armed resistance, but underground ideological resistance. We had different forms of it.
You have repeatedly stated that Ukraine is now protecting entire Europe. Is Europe doing enough for Ukraine or it could do more?
Of course, it could and should have done more. And it is true that Ukraine is fighting not only for themselves. Everyone realises that if Putin manages to seize Ukraine, he will go further. Moreover, he may attack other neighbouring countries at one and the same time. Therefore, helping Ukraine, Europe organises its own self-defence. But when Ukrainian fighters, soldiers, volunteers do not even have shoes, clothing, not to mention the weapons with which they could stand against the aggressor, the enemy, and they are not supported [by the West] – it is nothing but a shame. If a person next to you is beaten, and you turn back on them and pass by, – how could you respect yourself then?
Lukashenka is now playing the role of a peacemaker, he is allegedly trying to reconcile Ukraine with Russia, and Europe accepts this role. But of course, Lukashenka is highly unlikely to slip out of Russia’s control . Will Belarus be able to stop being part of Russia’s sphere of influence and agree to the integration with Europe?
A real peacekeeper is expected to offer a peace treaty between Russia and Ukraine. If I saw Mr Lukashenka proposing this to the sides fighting in the Russian-Ukrainian war … The neighbour who has pretty good relations with the both could tell them: “My friends, sit down and develop a peace treaty. Enough!” In this case I could believe that he is a peacemaker. But if he plays up to maneuvers to deceive the weaker party, it means that he serves to the stronger side. When a third party is interested in peace and sympathizes with those who suffer, he should talk about peace with Russia and Ukraine, and not with some kind of mercenaries. The involvement of mercenaries [in the negotiations] is a hoax, a realm of lies. They [Russia] wants to show that it is the mercenaries who are fighting there. But whose mercenaries are these? They are fighting for those who hired them, who delivers modern weapons, clothes and directly sends troops, officers and equipment.
Do you think Lithuania should reintroduce compulsory draft?
This should have been done earlier. The mandatory military service should not have been removed at all. Now we see a very big gap due to the fact that the former government of Social Democrats and the ex-Minister of Defence canceled the obligation by one order. We need full-fledged armed forces, and not on paper. It seems that here are battalions, divisions, but they have no soldiers (or very few). They are not enough even to man the equipment. The government relied on NATO’s support too much and did not think that it is up to us to defend ourselves.