Lithuania Foreign Minister Weighs In On Security Of Baltic States
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
All right, let's circle back to President Trump's comments today on Russia and how they were interpreted by the Baltic leaders at the White House today. I sat down today with Lithuania's foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, and I asked him how he would view a potential visit by Vladimir Putin to the White House, an invitation the Kremlin disclosed yesterday.
LINAS LINKEVICIUS: Good relations - it's OK, but this would be a prize, and we should understand that sometimes meeting's used as a smokescreen by other side to do nothing.
KELLY: That word smokescreen you used...
LINKEVICIUS: Smokescreen is that you're meeting, so the impression is that everything is OK, business as usual. Parties are talking but, at the same time, no results, no changes.
KELLY: But are you saying that in the context of the U.S.-Russia relationship?
LINKEVICIUS: I'm saying that in all contexts with the relations with that country because that country unfortunately not guided by the values and commitments. And sometimes they are aiming in different goals - not to solve problems but to solve own sort of state interests and sometimes unfortunately at the expense of sovereignty of neighboring countries. That's my point.
KELLY: There have been a lot of questions about what U.S. policy is on Russia and whether the Trump administration has taken too friendly a line toward Russia. What do you think?
LINKEVICIUS: You know, President Trump during our meeting mention he was tough enough with regard to Russia and really expelling of these diplomats - 60. It's a big number. So what I would add is exactly this realism - judging about not nice words but things on the ground, which really unfortunately are not changing. We beat Syria, beat Ukraine, beat Georgia, which 20 percent of territory is occupied. I'm talking about these real things.
KELLY: You're talking about Russian aggression...
LINKEVICIUS: Yes, exactly...
KELLY: ...In other parts of the world.
LINKEVICIUS: ...Against neighboring countries. So this is something which should be some lessons drawn from that for the future.
KELLY: Like what? What - is there something specific you would like to see the U.S. doing in regard to Russia...
LINKEVICIUS: Exactly, consistent...
KELLY: ...That the U.S. isn't doing?
LINKEVICIUS: Yeah, consistent policy, principled. I'm not talking about aggressive approach. I'm talking about consistent approach and - very important - value-based.
KELLY: You used the word consistent...
KELLY: ...In that you want to see consistent...
LINKEVICIUS: Yes, predictability in this regard.
KELLY: ...Predictable moves from the U.S...
LINKEVICIUS: Yes, yes.
KELLY: ...Which leads me to ask about something your president, the president of Lithuania, said today at the White House right after meeting with President Trump. She came out. She was talking about NATO, and she said - and I'll quote - "we need leadership, even unpredictable leadership." Who...
LINKEVICIUS: Yeah, it was...
KELLY: ...Is that a reference to?
LINKEVICIUS: Not everything was said seriously, but unpredictability in this regard unexpected to Russia because Russia usually unpredictable. And when Russia meets somebody else unpredictable on the other side, it confuses basically. I'm talking about predictability with regard to the value-based principles which were for - through the history of the United States.
KELLY: But predictability on who's part, U.S.?
LINKEVICIUS: Yes, predictability with regard to the respect of sovereign rights of countries regardless of the size to choose their future. That's predictability.
KELLY: What was your message today to the U.S., to President Trump about Russia?
LINKEVICIUS: Again, this realism that we have to judge Russia by deeds, not by statements and definitely not to be naive when Russia is trying to sell this illegal situation as a new normal.
KELLY: When you say illegal situation, you're referring to what, Ukraine?
LINKEVICIUS: Annexation of Crimea, the events in eastern Ukraine - Donetsk, Lugansk regions - also policy with regard to Georgia, policy with regard to Moldova, meddling into the political system or sometimes elections of neighboring countries. This is negative behavior which deserves our assessment at least - at least assessment.
KELLY: When you say your message to the White House, to the U.S. today was, you need to be realistic...
KELLY: ...Don't be naive, in your view, has the U.S. been unrealistic? Has the U.S. been naive...
LINKEVICIUS: No, no.
KELLY: ...When it comes to Russia?
LINKEVICIUS: And my - exactly because of the examples I've provided, they are realistic. Regardless everything what was said, we feel very firm commitment of United States in Baltic region and Poland with the presence of troops, exercises.
KELLY: You're being very diplomatic, so let me just close by...
LINKEVICIUS: It's my - part of my description.
KELLY: It is your job, yes (laughter) - point taken.
LINKEVICIUS: Sorry for that.
KELLY: But let me let me just ask you point blank. Are you satisfied with U.S. policy towards Russia today?
LINKEVICIUS: So far, yes.
KELLY: And then would you be happy for President Putin to be extended the same invitation that you were today, an invitation to meet with President Trump at the White House?
LINKEVICIUS: It's not for me to decide whether U.S. would like to meet or not President Putin. So I hope they will decide themselves. But these meetings will not necessarily bring some results. And let's be realistic in this regard.
KELLY: Mr. Foreign Minister, thank you so much.
KELLY: That is Lithuania's foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.