Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, was in Canada June 1-3 for a meeting with Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, and Estonian Foreign Affairs Minister Eva-Maria Liimets and Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, parliamentary secretary for Latvia’s Foreign Ministry.
The visit was described in the Globe and Mail last week, with explanations that Canada is being urged to join a proposed effort to restart grain shipments from the beleaguered Ukrainian port of Odesa and to support calls to boost NATO’s presence on the military alliance’s eastern flank. With Canada’s biggest military deployment in the Baltics, it leads a multinational NATO battlegroup, including nearly 700 Canadian soldiers near Latvia, that is part of the alliance’s “Enhanced Forward Presence” in both the Baltic states and Poland. Set up more than five years ago it is meant to deter Russian expansionism that might threaten countries once under Moscow’s rule in the Soviet Union.
The three Baltic countries, with support from Germany, are seeking NATO backing to upgrade these deployments to brigade-level, with about three times as many troops capable of not only deterring, but also thwarting, Russian efforts to seize territory on their eastern flanks.
Landsbergis said Western allies must act to help Ukraine undo Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa. This includes transferring sufficient missiles and armaments to allow Ukraine to regain control of the port and forming an international escort to protect ships laden with grain and other commodities as they clear territorial waters and make their way out of range of Russian warships. This would be a humanitarian mission to ensure that not only can Ukraine rebuild its economy but also get much-needed foodstuffs to international markets suffering from scarcity as a result of the war. The Lithuanian Foreign Minister noted insurance companies are reluctant to insure ships in the region and he believed this protection would enable shippers to get the coverage they require. He also said that Germany backs the Baltic call for moving NATO’s deployment on its eastern flank to brigade-level, but the alliance has yet to reach a consensus.
NATO leaders gather June 29 and 30 in Madrid for a summit that will be dominated by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Landsbergis said he is concerned about growing fatigue in the West regarding the conflict and rising concerns about challenges such as inflation and food scarcity.
“The Russians are now testing the rule book of the rules-based world order and if they are able to rewrite passages of it, and then sue for peace and the world agrees to this – this is a dark scenario for many countries.”
On June 3, G. Landsbergis joined the other Baltic ministers at the Toronto Metropolitan University for a forum on democracy, “Ukraine, War and Peace”. They also met with military personnel who had served in the Forward Presence group in Latvia, and Canadian business leaders.
That evening, the foreign minister met with Lithuanian Community leaders at the Lithuanian Martyrs’ Parish Hall, where he answered questions from the audience about Lithuania’s security and ongoing efforts to assist Ukraine. He also presented Ambassador Darius Skusevičius with a medal for diplomatic service and Community President Kazimieras Deksnys for service to Lithuania.