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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  February 3, 2022 12:30am-1:01am GMT

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this is bbc news. we'll have all the main headlines as newsday continues, straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. russian forces continue to gather close to ukraine's eastern and northern borders, and still the world waits to see what vladimir putin's endgame is. if the goal is to wring security concessions out of the us and its nato partners, does he have
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any chance of success? well, my guest is gabrielius landsbergis, foreign minister of lithuania, on the front line of nato—russia tensions. why is this small baltic state making so much noise as the superpowers square up? gabrielius landsbergis in vilnius, welcome to hardtalk. hello, good evening. it's nice to have you on the show, foreign minister. just a few days ago, you said of ukraine, you said, "we are convinced that a real war is a likely possibility."
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the diplomacy is still continuing. are you now dialling down your rhetoric about war? well, our observations about war is from what we see on the ground. the troops are still gathering, and not only on ukrainian border, but also in belarus. and apart from troops, there are equipment, armament, everything that is needed for an actual war, so if putin wanted to create a credible threat, i think that he's really getting there, so that we, the neighbours of ukraine or countries in the region, we truly believe that he actually has these intentions. but that doesn't mean that we do not trust that diplomacy can still prevail. actually, as we've seen in the past, you know, even when the war starts, sometimes diplomacy still continues. right. i just wonder if you're getting the tone right, if you're actually being helpful
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with all of this talk of the likelihood of war, because vladimir zelensky, the president of ukraine, says, "look, we do not need to panic. " and his adviser to the chief of staff said "consta nt, extremely emotional messages how a big war "is going to start tomorrow or the day after tomorrow "or the day after that, "they create real economic risk for us." so, maybe you need to rethink. well, you know, when we are speaking, and i'm talking, you know, not only as a lithuanian, but also someone coming from the baltic region, when we are talking about issues of security, we talk about our security as well, and we think that we are already in a different situation that we've been, let's say, in the last year's october, because the build—up of troops and the so—called exercise in belarus, where belarussian and russian troops will be
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actively exercising since starting from 10th february, actually, they affect our security. if the troops would remain after 20th february on lithuanian border, on polish border, that creates a security deficit in our region. and this is also a very important point that we are here, as baltic states politicians, trying to make that russia is not only threatening ukraine, it wants to change the security architecture of the whole region, and that directly affects us. we'll talk more about that. i just wonder whether you feel that lithuania feels that as a member of nato, that the nato alliance right now has got the cocktail of responses to putin right? because that cocktail basically involves sending troops. biden�*s announced he's sending a few thousand extra troops to eastern europe in the next few days, sending some military equipment,
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and you in the baltic states are sending limited military equipment to ukraine, and then talking very, very tough about sanctions that will follow any russian military operation. do you think the cocktail, as it stands, is the right one? well, basically, we are in the situation that was created not by us, and some of us are scrambling the old history books and trying to look for the lessons learned from the cold war time or the things that happened after the cold war and looking for the answers, the right answers to the situation. i'm convinced that there are a couple of things that are needed to be done. first of all, we need to send support to ukraine, and not only with words and nice thoughts. it has to be real. it has to be practical. then we need to reinforce the countries that have, as i mentioned, what we call a security deficit, and we're seeing the united states are doing exactly that. currently, the countries that are affected the most,
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they are reinforced first. we expect that baltic states would follow. then when we are talking about sanctions, if we expect and if we tell that they have to be unbearable, they have to be unbearable. therefore, in lithuania, we rarely talk about the possibility of red lines being that, you know, the things that we would not do in case of an actual attack against ukraine or an anschluss of belarus. basically, all options need to be on the table because we don't know what specific action putin and his troops might be thinking of. and what do you mean by that? i mean that, in effect, many of us in western countries, we think that belarus is already... law has already lost its sovereignty. but before, last year
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and after the election in 2020, there were no permanent russian troop bases in belarus. belarus still maintained its own border control. but what we're seeing now, the troop build—up is so massive that, basically, it changes the situation in belarus quite dramatically, especially if we see that the troops remain. and then the question is, and will be posed, whether belarus is still a sovereign country? so getting back to the question of whether nato�*s got it right. i just wonder when you say things like "the battle for ukraine "is going to be basically a battle for europe," whether you think nato ruling out sending fighting troops to ukraine itself is the right strategy? well, i think that ukraine has all the potential to defend its country, its territory. i don't think that the country has enough time and resources
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currently to arm itself. therefore, this is the main point that we need to cover. and as you've mentioned, lithuania and other baltic states, we're doing our part and we know that we cannot do a lot, but maybe we're sending the right signal to other partners in the west what should be done. right. but if you are meaning by that that you want to see the us and european partners ramping up weapon supplies to ukraine in short order, that is precisely russia's point — that what nato is doing is representing a new level of threat on russia's border, in russia's neighbourhood, and that is not only unacceptable, it also breaks promises made to russia about what nato would do in eastern europe going back to 1990. well, i think that we need to separate a few things.
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allowing people and making sure that they would be able to defend their own country is not a threat to anybody. basically, it's an assurance that the country will stand for what it believes, it's vital for it. and i think that it would go for any country. you seriously think that these level of armaments being sent to ukraine and the thousands and thousands of extra troops to be deployed by nato in the countries of eastern europe, which, of course, were once part of the soviet sphere of influence, you seriously think that won't be regarded as threatening from moscow? look, i think that what is already threatening is russian troops that are already on belarussian and lithuanian border. what i think is threatening is the occupied crimea. is troops in transnistria, in abkhazia, in 0ssetia, in
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parts of armenia and elsewhere. i think these things have been threatening the stability and security for a very long time. and to add to that, since 2008, when actual borders, for the first time in a very long time in the, well, broader european region, were crossed, this is what is actually threatening. right, but i want you to address vladimir putin's sense of recent history. he is convinced that, going back to 1990, the western powers, nato, gave promises. maybe they were oral promises, but they were promises nonetheless, that nato would not militarise the area, which was, till then, the former soviet empire. what we now see is militarisation by nato. in fact, let me ask you something specific
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about lithuania. there are two influential mps who have written a report in lithuania saying that what they want to see is a permanent us battalion size military base put by washington dc on your soil. is that your desire? your strategy? well, i can say that, with everything that i mentioned, with a country that is actively acting as an aggressor against its neighbours and thinking of myriad of arguments, why does it need to behave the way, there is only one thing that can make the people of lithuania, the people of latvia, estonia and other countries more safe and secure is having our partners with us, defending our territories. probably this is the single most important thing that happened since our regaining of our independence. joining the eu isjoining nato
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and having the fifth article and our partners defending us. so you... so, just to be clear, you want to turn your country into a major military, permanent military base for the united states? we believe that our partners helping us defend our countries basically saves us from any attempts by russia to try something adventurous on our borders. there are those who discuss in lithuania, and not so few of them, that, if not for nato, wouldn't we have a similar situation like happened in 2008 in georgia? because military adventurism is really likely, especially in those countries who are not part of nato. so, we will... i mean... yeah. yeah, i hearyour point but i'm mindful you're the foreign minister, you believe, i'm sure you believe in the power of diplomacy and the power of compromise. the russians are insistent
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and they they've said that the recent us response to their demands about a pull—back of nato from eastern europe is inadequate, they've said, because the key question, as far as moscow is concerned, is being ignored. and lavrov puts it like this — the us and its allies have to understand the principle that they cannot strengthen their security at the expense of another country's security, ie russia's. are you prepared here and now to tell me that you're listening to russia, you understand what they're saying, and that there are some concessions you and nato partners can make? look, when you said that, you know, putin wants to bring the world back to 1990s, i think that, you know, we need to really look even more back... their concepts of powers, where, you know, big powers were dividing the map into their zones of influence. and i'm absolutely sure that these times
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are way, way, way over. we have to be sure and to make sure that the countries can themselves choose their security options. it's not about zones of influence. actually, if russia wants to be serious about what it's saying, first of all, the troops need to be withdrawn from the territories that it currently keeps under occupation. and i'm talking about eastern ukraine, i'm talking about crimea, territories of georgia and territories of moldova. this is where any sort of meaningful debate would be, you know, would be started. you're taking a tough stand and ijust wonder whether you're worried that nato and the european union are not united around the tough talk that you're giving me. i mean, if one looks at berlin, for example, we see a german government that is adamant it will not send weapons to ukraine. in fact, they're limiting it to a field hospital and a few thousand helmets. and we hear the croatian
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president say that, actually, ukraine has no place in nato. so, you guys in europe and in nato, you are very far from united. well... well, saying "you guys" looks like, you know, we've spent so much time apart, but that's not long ago that we were not "you guys" but all of us guys. and i still believe that the western community will find an answer. because it's not about the divisions in europe that putin is looking at. what he would really like to achieve is divisions within the broader community, between eu, uk and us — try to find the differences, try to find what divides us and then show to the rest of the world that, look, these guys cannot, you know, make up their minds how tough or not tough they want to be. well, isn't that... to a certain extent, that is true.
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let's just take one specific. you talked about unbearable sanctions being brought to bear on the russian economy if putin makes a move, another move in ukraine. the truth is germany, for example, has expressed deep disquiet about the possibility that russia be blocked from access to the swift international financial transaction system cos they worry it would do too much damage to the general international financial system. again, unbearable sanctions? it's not going to happen. well, that's the point i made before, that coming from my government, where we have the position that no red lines have to be drawn for when we are talking about the sanctions, because it sends not the best signal to moscow. we need to be open about a number of possibilities depending on what russia is doing. that means that we would have a broader spectrum of answers
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to the developing situation. i've read the resolution from congress, and maybe you've seen that as well. it also has a few lines about the possibility to ban the imports of oil, coal and many other extracted goods from russia. but it also has a line that it should not destroy the global supply lines. so, basically, what they're saying is that we really need to look at all options and put them all on the table. but, then again, at the end of the day, you know, if it's damaging more, particularly more to the countries who are imposing those sanctions then maybe some balance could be found. but this sort of discussion is ongoing not only in germany but in many, many other places. do you think it's wise for lithuania to be tweaking moscow's tail in so many different ways
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at the same time? your tough talk on the ukraine crisis, but also you've turned your country into essentially a sort of dissident base for belarussian politicians who have had to flee from lukashenko�*s dictatorship. and of course, you are a very strong, loud advocate of regime change now in belarus, and you also have offered safe haven to one of alexei navalny�*s biggest sort of allies in his political movement, which of course, is profoundly anti—putin. how far are you going to take your determination to do what you can against putin? when there's the choice between the oligarchs and dissidents, we choose dissidents, so that's that. right, but you're a country of 2.8 million people and right now, you've taken on one heck of a diplomatic commitment, fight, cos not only are you involved in these sort
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of wars of words and hostilities with russia in diplomatic terms, but you've taken on a feud with china at the very same time and you personally have been at the forefront of that with your decision to allow the taiwan government to open up a representative office, which they're calling the office of taiwan rather than taipei, which is the usual diplomatic formulation. why did you choose to confront beijing like that? well, we didn't choose to confront beijing allowing taiwanese to open the office under exactly that name. i think... you did choose. cos everybody else in europe still uses this weird diplomatic formulation, office of taipei. you decided to end that and to just say outright, "it's the office of taiwan." it's the office of taiwanese... taiwanese people. maybe we are drawing some
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inspiration from the agreement that was signed between the prc and the united states in 1979, which said that the people of the united states can have cultural and economic relations with the people of taiwan. so, for us, that taiwanese representation means exactly that, and we are we are upset that, you know, the country like prc is upset about that. well, are you upset also that you misread the scale of the chinese reaction? cos your own deputy foreign minister, mradomenas, has said china has responded not only bilaterally with all of the trade sanctions that they've placed on lithuania, but they've also imposed de facto sanctions on the eu single market by targeting any other businesses across europe that have lithuanian sort of components as part of their products that they're trying to sell to china.
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so you've created a big problem for other people in europe, and it seems it's spiralled out of control in a way that you never imagined. well, that's one way to put it. but i would like to rephrase it, that it's not us who did something wrong. we'd never did anything illegal. it's china decided to escalate it to the single market. and actually, this is why the consultations in wto are stopped. yeah, but, with respect, you say you did nothing wrong, but your own president says that you made a mistake with this name change and he wants you to take it back. so you can tell me on hardtalk — are you prepared to say, "i got it wrong, "this is too much pressure on lithuania, "we're going to change the name to taipei"? well, i'm glad to correct you there, that we have an agreement with the president that we are not taking the name back and it stays, because we are convinced that we did nothing illegal and everything else will be sorted in the manners that are usually used for that, for these cases.
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so, right, the biggest opposition bloc in your parliament says normalisation of relations with china must begin and it must begin with the removal of landsbergis from the post of foreign minister. the pressure on you is growing. well, that's. .. well, this is what opposition does in any democratic country, and i'm glad that we are a democracy. let's finish with that idea of you being a democracy. throughout this conversation, you've stressed lithuania's commitment to defending freedom and democracy in your own country, across europe. if you are to be credible and serious with that position, is it not time for lithuania to look within, to look at the way it, over decades and decades, has refused to tell the truth about the story of what lithuanians did to collaborate with the nazis in the killing ofjews in the second world war. well, i think that lithuania really is taking the right steps in that regard, and, as history is extremely
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difficult for any country, we've learned our lessons and we're making our amends. well, have you been to your own museum? which used to be called the genocide museum, i think is now called the museum of 0ccupation and freedom fighting, a museum which remarkably has one small room devoted to what happened to thejews and how lithuanians may have worked with the nazis, but actually has three full floors all devoted to what is still called a genocide committed by the soviets against your people. there doesn't appear to be a willingness to be truthful about how some of even your national heroes collaborated with the nazis. is it time to change? well, i think that it's a healing process, and it's...the country has to heal from many wounds that... ..that occurred to the people of our country. and it takes time, and i would love to see that going faster. but unfortunately, if we want that to be sustainable,
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we need we need to allow the country to heal. and i'm quite convinced that we will have some good news in that regard when we are talking about the museums. we have to end there. foreign minister landsbergis, thank you very much forjoining me on hardtalk. thank you. thank you for the questions. hello there. it's been mild for the time of year, for the last few days. thursday's also another mild day for most of us. quite a bit of cloud around once again, but i think we should see a little bit more
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sunshine into the afternoon. and it's going to be breezy, as well, i think a windier day today than what we had on a wednesday. you can see why more isobars on the charts, particularly across the north of uk, and especially when this cold front arrives across the northwest of the country later on. but we're still in this mild wedge of air, as you can see from the yellow and orange colours there. so, a mild, rather cloudy, rather breezy start to the day. some spots of light rain and drizzle across northern and western hills, which should tend to fizzle out. increasing amounts of sunshine, we think into the afternoon, but this weather front will bring some more persistent rain to north west scotland, northern ireland later on. it'll be a blustery day for all the winds picking up, but turning very strong across the northwest, with this weather front in excess of 50 mph. now, for most of us, it's going to be mild 10—13 celsius, but it will be turning colder behind that weather front — only 5 celsius there for stornoway. so, you can see why this colder air moves in behind the cold fronts, as the name suggests, as it slowly works its way southeastwards through thursday night. so, it'll be lying through central parts of the country by the middle
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parts of the night. eventually, that rain will be pushing through england and wales, a little bit of wintriness on its back edge as colder air digs in. there'll be wintry, blustery showers and clear spells for scotland and northern ireland. could see a touch of ice across northern parts of the country by the end of the night, but less cold further south and east ahead of the weather front. so, for friday, then, we start with that wet weather with that weather front lying across the southeast. could see some wintriness on its back edge as it clears away — eventually it will — and then, all of the country will have a chillier but bright day for friday with blustery showers. these will be wintry across northern and western areas, not even down to the hills, maybe even down to lower levels as well. temperatures much lower than of late, 3—9 celsius. factor in the strong northwest wind and it'll feel even colder than those temperatures suggest. it is a fairly short—lived cold spell because, as we head on into the weekend, we start to draw up some milder air again from the southwest. but it will be quite a windy weekend, and this weather front will be waxing and waning across the country to bring outbreaks of rain.
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so, a milder theme into the weekend, particularly on sunday, but that weather front�*s likely to bring thicker cloud with outbreaks of rain to many areas. that's it from me, bye for now.
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