Lithuania’s Linas Linkevicius tells DW that Russia has been violating the terms of the INF nuclear arms treaty. He says action is necessary to force all parties to comply with the agreement.
DW: US President Donald Trump announced he was planning to quit the Intermediate-range Missile Force (IMF) Treaty. Is this the right move?
Linas Linkevicius: It is just an intention, it’s not yet a decision. Personally I think this is a tactic, it’s pressure — because Russia has been violating this agreement itself for several years. We all understand that all these arms control agreements are very important. But a very important condition is that all parties must comply. So if not, something should done in order to force them to. So far, all the calls and the criticism have had no effect. And maybe this is a matter of pressure. To illustrate that, there was the recent meeting of National Security Advisor John Bolton in Moscow. He, as I understand, didn’t cancel these meetings, so it is positive and satisfactory to see talks. Also, a [Trump-Putin] summit is going to take place really soon, so I believe these are good signs. I would not react so dramatically prematurely.
DW: Russia has deployed Iskander missiles in the Kaliningrad Region. These missiles can also be set up to carry nuclear warheads. Aren’t you worried about this?
LL: Of course we are. When Russians are talking about balance, about adequate responses, it’s by no means adequate because we do not have defense capabilities. And we’re not going to be aggressive. But this is really not a move for confidence building.
And by the way, these missiles can reach not just Riga, Tallinn and Vilnius, but also Berlin. And they’re nuclear-capable. So I believe it’s really an escalation measure. That’s not a claim, it’s a fact. It’s not denied by Russia. It’s very important to say that this is not the way to give dialogue. It’s not the way to talk and follow military arguments. It should be somehow terminated if they want to have decent dialogue. We need to see cooperation. So this is really something which should be taken very seriously by the international community.
DW: Germany is a framework nation leading the NATO troops in Lithuania. How is this cooperation working?
LL: It’s going very well. And as far as I know that’s not just my opinion. The Lithuanian attitude is very friendly but I hope that the soldiers also feel comfortable. There are some incidents from time to time but that always happens.
But in general I believe it’s really a very good sign of cooperation. Just as a show of solidarity it’s a very big contribution. We understand what that means. It is not a big contingent of about 200 German soldiers as a framework nation but there are also many other countries involved in general.
Again, about numbers: it’s really not big. One thousand five hundred deployed soldiers is really not a big deal. Sometimes our neighbors [Russia] are making noise. There is no reason for that. But it’s very strong international message. So we appreciate that very much.
Linas Linkevicius has been Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2012. Before that, he served two stints as defense minister, from 1993-96 and 2000-2004.