Lithuanian president calls for robust NATO expansion as Ukraine war rages on

Lithuanian president calls for robust NATO expansion as Ukraine war rages on

During former President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, he was vehemently critical of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and even entertained the idea of the United States withdrawing from it. President Joe Biden, in contrast, was aggressively pro-NATO during his 2020 campaign, fearing that NATO wouldn’t survive if Trump were reelected.

Trump lost the election, and Biden has been quite vocal in his support for NATO — especially during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO has not only survived; it may even expand if Sweden and Finland join the alliance, which Biden has said he would welcome. And Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausèda is obviously very much in favor of that expansion as well.

In an op-ed published by the Washington Post on June 23, Nausèda stresses that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine makes a strong case for expanding and strengthening NATO.

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“For decades,” Nausèda observes, “the West has failed to understand what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime is about — namely, expansionism, revisionism, violence, rule by fear and coercion. Russia is not interested in creation or cooperation, but rather, in destruction and rule by force. February 24, 2022, was the day when the rose-tinted glasses fell off.”

It was on February 24 that Russian forces, on orders from Putin, launched a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine — resulting in the worst military conflict in Europe since World War 2. Biden, in response, has been calling for the United States’ European NATO allies to join him in tough economic sanctions against Russia, although he has adamantly maintained that there will be no U.S. troops putting “boots on the ground” in Ukraine.

“Putin is clear in his desire to subvert western values, cut the links between North America and Europe, and subdue Europe to Russia’s will,” Nausèda warns. “He knows that he can achieve these aims by confronting NATO. We can prevent this from happening by ensuring that the transatlantic community has a clear plan for defense.”

Throughout most of NATO’s 73-year history, Sweden and Finland have opted to stay out of the alliance. But the invasion of Ukraine has inspired those Scandinavian countries to change their minds and ask to join, which Nausèda is very much in favor.

“NATO’s ‘open-door policy’ must be officially maintained as the most effective tool in expanding security and providing peace for millions of Europeans,” Nausèda argues. “We should wholeheartedly welcome Sweden and Finland into the alliance. This decision will have a wide-ranging positive impact on the Baltic region and NATO as a whole.”

The Lithuanian president concludes the op-ed by stressing that NATO’s well-being is an essential part of discouraging Putin’s aggression.

“The success of NATO as the backbone of collective defense spanning the whole transatlantic area is crucial,” Nausèda writes. “This also means that the alliance will have to reinvent itself. Only by being more proactive, investing more in our indivisible security and making it more difficult for adversaries to wreak havoc can we hope to achieve the return of a lasting peace in Europe.”

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