NATO Summit in Vilnius, Foreign Policy | We know what it means to be a neighbor of Russia.

NATO Summit in Vilnius, Foreign Policy |  We know what it means to be a neighbor of Russia.

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In a few days (July 11-12) NATO will hold another summit, this time in the capital of Lithuania. The addition of the meeting to Vilnius is interpreted as an important handshake at a difficult time.

The three Baltic states became members of NATO in 2004. Today, they consider themselves happy that they are not alone in the world.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were Soviet republics from 1945 to 1990. The Red Army really moved in 1944, when Nazi Germany began to kneel across Europe. Many Lithuanians greeted the Soviet soldiers with applause, but sadness and despondency quickly gave way to joy.

When they finally managed to throw off the yoke of the Soviets, the general celebration dragged on for days and weeks.

For Arunas Purissas and his long pointing stick, there is no peace to be had. Tourists crowd big and wide in the cold basement corridors of the KGB Museum in Vilnius to hear him.

“Here you see some victims,” he said, pausing in front of the eerie black-and-white photograph. “Some tens of thousands.”

executed in the cellar

The KGB Museum is centrally located in the city, near a green park with a colorful fairground. Kids enjoy summer and life, but in the museum’s torture cellar it’s hard to breathe.

The pictures and information we get do not make the experience any easier. Arunas Borisas takes us from one torture chamber to another. “This is not just a museum,” he says. “Because that’s where it happened – right here.”

The building in Akujatn is large and garish, many would say beautiful. The museum actually bears the long name Museum of Professions and Freedom Struggles. The walls here heard countless piercing cries. After Nazi Germany invaded Lithuania in 1941, the building was used as the headquarters of the Gestapo. Then the KGB came. “There was no need to change anything, because the infrastructure was already in place,” Bourisas continues.

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He bangs his fist on a large iron door, and the door responds with a plaintive song.

From 1945 to the early 1960s, about a thousand prisoners were executed in this bunker. Judgments were passed on the upper floors by ruthless men who obeyed the slightest hints of Moscow. But although the occupier was very cruel, the Lithuanians continued to resist. “You know what is happening in Ukraine. We fought the same way as they did!

Torbjørn Færøvik

Born in 1948. Kand Philol. Majored in history. He has worked at NTB Abroad, Arbeiderbladet Abroad and NRK Abroad. He has been working as a full-time writer since 1999. He is the author of twelve books on China and Asia. Many have been translated into foreign languages. He has won the Brage Prize (non-fiction) three times, the Cappelen Prize once. Giving talks and lectures mostly on China and other Asian topics. He travels a lot in Asia.

The bloody fight of the forest brothers

Not many people have heard of the Forest Brothers, but in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia they are a household name. The brothers, some fifty thousand partisans, went into the woods with weapons in their hands as soon as the Soviet occupation became a reality. Most of them were Lithuanians. They lived underground and suffered through winter after winter.

In the first year alone, they lost nearly ten thousand men. Later there were more.

However, the Forest Brothers kept it going for ten to fifteen years. Latvian Janis Pinops didn’t give up until 1995. And he didn’t give up until the last Soviet soldier left the country. That defiant partisan was seventy years old.

“I thank our Lord, who has protected me from all dangers for fifty years,” he said when he finally emerged from his lair, hidden deep in the Latvian forests. Two brothers supplied him with ham and potatoes while it was raining at its worst. Pinups fell asleep in 2007, at the age of 82.

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Individually, the Baltic states are small and vulnerable. However, Lithuania has a proud past to show for it. For three hundred years, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a mighty power in Europe. The kingdom extended to the far south on the continent and included all of Belarus, Ukraine, and parts of Poland and Russia. On Cathedral Square in Vilnius stands its foremost warrior, Gediminas, with his fearsome sword. “Today we are as happy as children,” says Arunas Bourisas.

The population of Lithuania is only 2.8 million people, but it has nevertheless managed to gain respect in Europe and the world. Much of the explanation is due to the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO, which gives it back cover in difficult times. Like now.

The country’s armed forces consist of only twenty thousand soldiers. From 1945 to the early 1960s, about a thousand prisoners were executed in this inferior reserve force that could be mobilized when needed. This is why it is so important to have strong allies.

wars by all means

Two years ago, Lithuania caused a stir by clashing with China. The government in Vilnius was no stingier than allowing Taiwan to set up a representative office in the city, and China responded with vexing denunciations and economic sanctions.

The party’s English-language newspaper Global Times went berserk, comparing Lithuania to a helpless fly that would be easy to kill. “Although is it worth it? We will have blood on our hands.” But Lithuania has stood its ground, and now the office is fully operational.

While China is far from Lithuania, Russia is very close. The country shares borders with Poland, Belarus, and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, though not with “real” Russia. Vladimir Putin has yet to deal with daily insults from the Lithuanian side.

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a reality, Lithuania was the first country in Europe to promise Ukrainian military assistance. Since then, the country has taken in another fifty thousand Ukrainian refugees.

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“The Lithuanian nation knows better than anyone how an occupier can crush freedom, and what the cost of restoring it will be,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised acceptance speech to the Lithuanian National Assembly last year.

The coalition government in Vilnius enjoys broad support for its outspoken foreign policy. But there are also voices who fear the country is becoming overconfident and putting itself at risk. At worst, critics warn, Russia could find itself encroaching on the narrow Suwalki Corridor, the only land link between the Baltics and the rest of the European Union. If that happens, Europe may have a new war in its lap.

Read more of Torbjorn Færovik’s comments here

“Never again.”

While politicians go about their business, Arunas Borisas continues his lessons in the basement of the KGB Museum. Several cell doors are open, you just need to go inside. Up to forty prisoners were kept together in some of them. Here there was a place to stand, but there was nothing else. Some cells were so small that they only held one standing prisoner.

“This cell was filled with ice water,” adds Borisas, gesturing through another closed door. “The prisoners were forced to stand at a height in the background until they could no longer bear it and fell into the water.”

The museum also presents exhibits of the KGB’s sophisticated torture instruments. Execution sentences were carried out in a separate room. More Lithuanians died in battle or otherwise. During the entire Soviet period, about thirty thousand Lithuanians were killed or executed, while more than one hundred thousand were deported to Siberia.

“Never again,” Borisas concludes. Two little words that the Baltic peoples also say.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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