The Baltic States and Their Region: New Europe or Old?

By David J. Smith | Go to book overview

Lithuania's new (in)security: transatlantic tensions and the
dilemma of dual loyalty

Dovilė Budrytė

There is general agreement that Lithuania has been enjoying an unprecedented level of security. Currently the state does not face any immediate military threats. Not a single country, not even Russia, is identified as an enemy in its national security documents. Euro-Atlantic integration helped the state to mend fences with Poland, its neighbour and former enemy. In 1994, hoping for membership in NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), Lithuania signed a good neighbourhood treaty with Poland. Official Lithuanian-Russian relations improved following the terrorist attacks of September 11 when Russia weakened its opposition to Lithuania's NATO membership and agreed to resolve the transit issue to Kaliningrad.1 In June of 2003, Russia finally ratified a border treaty with its western neighbour, thus removing a major sticking point in LithuanianRussian relations. Finally, although Lithuania cannot ignore the failure of its eastern neighbour (Belarus) to democratise, in militarily terms Belarus does not pose a direct threat to Lithuania.

It appears that this feeling of security created by Euro-Atlantic integration and understood as the absence of a direct military threat is shared by many. One the eve of NATO expansion, Linas Linkevičius, a former defence minister, noted that “since the times of king Vytautas the Great (15th century), Lithuania has never been as powerful as today. Lithuania is powerful not because it is a big country or is well armed, but because it became a member of the most powerful alliance on earth.”2 According to a public opinion poll taken on 29 March 2004, the day when Lithuania became a de facto member of NATO, 38.5 % of respondents said that receiving an invitation to NATO made them feel more secure.3

Since the early 90s, Euro-Atlantic integration has been presented as the “return to the West” in Lithuanian political discourse.4 In January 1991 Vytautas Landsbergis, leader of the Lithuanian independence movement Sąjūdis, argued that:

“The return of the Baltic States to Europe is peaceful
and consistent [with the past]. Not only the Baltic
States, but Europe as a whole needs this return to take
place. Sometimes Europe does not have enough
confidence to stand up for the independence of
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The freedom of the
Baltic States means greater freedom for all Europe.
The freedom of the Baltic states would mean that

-41-

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