Possibility of Ukrainian conflict expanding cannot be ignored, says Lithuanian president

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda calls for a stronger NATO presence in the region as a deterrent against Russia. The possibility of the war in Ukrainian spreading to his country cannot be ignored, Nauseda told Belgian journalists during a Belgian state visit to his country on Monday.

Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde arrived in Lithuania for a three-day state visit on Monday. The visit marks a hundred years of diplomatic relations between Belgium and Lithuania. "The state visit is a good opportunity to confirm our good relations," says Lithuania's president. "I very much hope it will contribute to political and socio-economic cooperation between our countries."

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is cause for unease in the former Soviet republic. Nauseda certainly does not consider an extension of the conflict to his country to be entirely impossible. "If Russia is successful in Ukraine, there is a high probability that they will continue to stand at our door and will come after us," he said.

"Nobody should ignore that possibility, because the Kremlin regime is totally unpredictable. The idea of reuniting the Soviet empire is still alive there. Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest tragedy of the 20th century. For us, it was probably the happiest moment in our history, because Lithuania regained its independence at that moment," Nauseda added.

A stronger presence of NATO troops on the alliance's eastern border remains essential for Nauseda. "That is the best deterrent," he says. "The NATO summit in Madrid has already produced very promising results in that regard." 

The Lithuanian president says he did not enter into a dialogue on security issues with Russian president Vladimir Putin. "I did not see the point of such talks," he said. Nauseda is also not engaged in a dialogue with Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko. 

"We had one conversation with Aleksandr Lukashenko before the August 2020 elections, but those elections were rigged, and we never recognised the result. After that, there was no point in communicating with him either." According to the Lithuanian president, the deployment of Russian troops in Belarus is an additional source of tension in the region that NATO will have to address.



Belgium's King Philippe (left) is welcomed by Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda (right) in Vilnius, Lithuania on October 24, 2022 © PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP

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