Liepa Boberiene

The threat to Baltic security has increased as Russian and “separatist” forces take ever more territory in southeastern Ukraine in an undeclared war. A year after Russian military forces seized Crimea, five months after the first “Minsk ceasefire,” and immediately following the second “Minsk ceasefire,” President Vladimir Putin has escalated the conflict with tanks, artillery, and anti-aircraft systems, as well as sending uniformed Russian troops into Ukraine, a peaceful neighbor.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė compares these tactics to those employed by dictators who have occupied the region in the past: “Putin uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That’s exactly what Stalin and Hitler did.” She supports Ukraine’s aspirations to integrate with Europe and urges the international community to protect Ukraine’s sovereignty, and we must also.

The U.S., European Union, and others have imposed economic sanctions which have had a negative impact on the Russian economy; however, they have not deterred Putin’s aggression and perhaps have emboldened his motives. We cannot allow Russia to use military force to redraw international borders and then expect these tactics to end in Ukraine.

We must take action now in order to preserve Baltic security and Lithuania’s freedom.

Strategic military support from the West, including defensive weapons, would bolster Ukraine’s hope for success, and is the best deterrent of future Russian expansion. The governments of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine have established a joint military brigade. In the U.S., the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, signed by President Barack Obama on December 18, 2014, authorized military assistance but important appropriations have not been made. So far, the US has sent blankets, meal packets, and body armor, but weapons and training are desperately needed for Ukraine to defend itself.

Act now to prevent further Russian occupation of Ukraine and beyond.

Historically, Lithuania has been a regional leader in defying Russian occupation and promoting democracy and freedom. Here are three ways that you can make a difference now:

  1. Contribute to NGOs providing desperately needed help to Ukrainian troops
    1. Blue-Yellow is a grassroots initiative in Lithuania run by volunteers who value freedom, understand Lithuania’s interconnection with Ukraine, and ensure minimal overhead as support goes directly to troops http://www.blue-yellow.lt/
    2. Remember that even small contributions can make a big difference—no amount is too little, please donate today.

 

  1. Call your U.S. representatives—calling is the most effective way to get results (contact information is at http://whoismyrepresentative.com) Request that they:
    1. Carry out the Ukraine Freedom Support Act (S. 2828/H.R. 5859) by arming Ukraine and deterring Russia from invading other countries
    2. Support the Crimea Annexation Non-Recognition Act (H.R. 93)
    3. Ensure the release of Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko who is being held illegally in a Russian prison since July 2014 (S.Res. 52/H.Res. 50), as agreed in the second “Minsk ceasefire”

 

  1. Raise awareness of the illegal invasion of Ukraine and broader provocations in the region
    1. Monitor events in Eastern Europe and Russia itself, and consider the source.
    2. Spread the word—share your knowledge in your community, school, workplace, and on social media… We must not let Ukraine fall. #USAarmUkraine
    3. Sign petitions, such as http://wh.gov/i249s

Through our own fight for independence, Lithuanians have proven that a dedicated and organized group can create monumental change— let’s demonstrate our power once again in support of Ukraine.

“Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not too costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.”

Winston Churchill, “The Gathering Storm,” 1948