AP Interview: Lithuania FM requires regime change in Russia

Lithuania’s high diplomat stated Monday that eradicating Russian President Vladimir Putin from energy is the one technique to defend the West and its allies from future threats from Moscow, urging a good more durable stance than the U.S. and plenty of NATO allies have been keen to pursue since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with The Associated Press in Washington, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis stated Putin’s annual Victory Day speech was “underwhelming” and that the “gloomy faces” of generals and others have been indicators of failing within the Ukraine struggle. Yet, he stated a wounded Putin could also be much more harmful and that the one technique to take away the risk is to take away him.

“From our standpoint, up till the purpose the present regime will not be in energy, the international locations surrounding it will likely be, to some extent, at risk. Not simply Putin however the entire regime as a result of, you recognize, one may change Putin and may change his inside circle however one other Putin may rise into his place,” Landsbergis said.

“And so as long as a regime that intends to wage wars outside Russian territory is in place, the countries surrounding it are in danger,” he said. “And, if one thing was proven to those who doubted it after 2008 in Georgia in 2014 when the first war in Ukraine started, it is that Russia is an aggressive country. That’s very clear.”

Lithuania is one of the three Baltic states that among NATO allies are particularly concerned about possible Russian designs on forcefully returning them to Moscow’s rule. Lithuanian officials, including Landsbergis have been especially outspoken about their fears but his overt calls for regime change go beyond what most NATO allies have been willing to express.

President Joe Biden raised eyebrows among many when he told an audience in Warsaw, Poland in March that “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” But the White House quickly walked back that statement and Biden himself said he was not calling for regime change in Moscow.

Landsbergis, who was in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials and others, said he had not been impressed by Putin’s Victory Day speech in Red Square.

“‘Underwhelming’ probably is the most used word to describe the situation and I will use that myself,” he said. “I think that we’ve seen a lot of generals and politicians who feel that they’re losing a war to much smaller country that they most probably did not even want to start to begin with.”

“The faces were kind of sad and grim that you usually would not see on the parade day, which is to remember the greatest victory that they think they had, but now it’s not a day of victory for them and many of them they understand that they’re losing,” Landsbergis told The AP.

Many had expected Putin to use the annual commemoration of the Soviet Union’s triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II — a day after the rest of Europe marks Victory in Europe Day — to announce an intensified military push on Ukraine or call for referendums for the annexation of Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine’s east. He did neither.

Landsbergis said Lithuania was pleased with the support that its NATO allies have offered to it and the other countries in the alliance’s eastern flank, but that they needed more. He said Lithuania, along with fellow Baltic nations Estonia and Latvia, would be pressing NATO to supply more air and maritime defenses as well as permanent deployments of troops on their territory when alliance leaders meet in Madrid in late June.

He said the Madrid summit should be a venue where the particular vulnerabilities of the Baltics are taken into account and addressed. “It has to be reflected that NATO has to change its its posture in eastern flank more. In the Baltic states we kind of we feel that we are approaching this point where we are more and more resembling the feeling of West Berlin and during the years of the Cold War,” he said.

He said the Baltics were pleased when Biden said that NATO would defend “every inch” of NATO territory but that those words must be followed by actions.

“We are very happy the way that partners and allies reacted to Russia’s war in Ukraine, sending additional deployments in the Baltic states, but it’s still a short-term solution,” he said. “We believe that we’re approaching the time frame where we have to really take into account the strategic implications of the war.”

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