Lithuania’s PM: ‘If Russia is not defeated it will come for somebody else’

Vilnius In July, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte will welcome Nato leaders to Vilnius for one of the most important summits in the alliance’s history. Top of the agenda will be how to help Ukraine push back Vladimir Putin’s forces. But a more thorny problem will be whether to formally offer membership to Kyiv – a move that would make Ukraine’s front lines Nato’s own. Simonyte believes that the war could have been avoided if Nato had accepted Ukraine and Georgia’s membership bids back in 2008. Before Putin invaded Ukraine last year, she says, ‘western leaders and western organisations were ready to abandon their positions every time Russia was pressing’.

If Sister Nijole can be happy, so can you

In the past five years I’ve met many people who’ve had direct, sometimes horrific, experience of communist rule. But I was more excited about doing a recent interview than I had been about any of the previous ones. It was going to be with a nun in a convent in Lithuania. I had imagined the scene: we would enter a large, gloomy, medieval stone convent. We would be cautiously admitted into a cavernous hallway and then ushered by a silent nun into a small, bare room for visitors. Then, dressed in black nun’s garb, Sister Nijolė Sadūnaitė would enter the room, head bowed, and sit in a plain wooden chair, her face lit only

‘China is all-out against us’: an interview with Lithuania’s foreign minister

On the 16th floor of a tower block in Vilnius, Lithuania, is an office with a nameplate so incendiary that it has started a trade war. The ‘Taiwanese Representative Office’ violates a rule that China imposes upon its trade partners: never allow Taiwan to open official offices. Call it ‘Taipei’, or anything, just not ‘Taiwan’. Lithuania recently decided that an important principle is at stake: should small countries be bullied by big ones? It thought not – and has allowed Taiwan to use its own name at what is regarded as a de facto embassy. This was Vilnius going out on a limb, saying it was time to defend democracies

Britain’s duty to Taiwan

It’s not often that a brass plate sparks a diplomatic incident, as happened this week in Vilnius. Lithuania invited Taiwan to establish a ‘Taiwan representative office’ in the capital. Beijing told Vilnius that the name was unacceptable, and ordered the government to replace the word ‘Taiwan’ with ‘Taipei’ or ‘Taipei City’. Lithuania held its ground, whereupon Beijing withdrew its ambassador and simultaneously expelled Lithuania’s woman in Beijing. There is more to this, as you might imagine, than meets the eye. Since its election of a centre-right government last October, Lithuania has been steadily reaching out to Taipei. There are good reasons for this, not least its own very recent history

The EU’s growing migrant war with Belarus

The EU is building a wall — and they’re going to make Belarus pay for it. This week, the tiny Baltic nation of Lithuania began erecting a barbed-wire border fence on its frontier with its neighbour, Europe’s most notorious autocracy. Meanwhile, Brussels is ramping up economic sanctions against Belarus. Lithuania’s parliament has declared a state of emergency, citing a sharp rise in migrants attempting to illegally cross the border. More than 800 made the journey in the first week of July alone, coming from countries like Iraq, Iran, Syria and the Congo. In response, hundreds of troops have been deployed and construction of a 340-mile barrier is underway. The EU’s newly

Lukashenko’s migrant warfare against the EU

When you have already forced a plane down with spurious claims of a bomb threat, just to arrest one dissident journalist, where do you go from there? For the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, a man looking to punish the European Union after it imposed sanctions on Belarus, it seems that exploiting would-be migrants and asylum seekers is the way forward. Last week, the dictator threatened to send masses of migrants to the EU, in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions against Belarus. ‘We will not stop anyone’, Lukashenko said, saying migrants would be on their way to a ‘warm and comfortable Europe’ soon. His goal in particular appeared to be to