Lithuania is threatened by Belarus: this conclusion can be drawn from the report of the Lithuanian special services on external threats to their country this year. The document has been published this week. It is almost fully devoted to threats from Russia. And from Belarus. The name of our country is on every page of the report. Belarusian diplomats have already said that someone in Lithuania wants to drive a wedge between Vilnius and Minsk.
The report of the Lithuanian State Security Department is almost entirely devoted to our eastern neighbors: the word “Russia” appears in the document 130 times. The word “Belarus” is mentioned another 25 times. Vilnius considered us almost a subordinate state — subordinate to Russian politicians, military and … spies. The latter, they say, are very interested in Lithuanians, whose relatives are in Belarus.
“Politicians or some Lithuanian figures who have relatives or businesses in Belarus or Russia are a target for operations,” said Laurynas Kasčiūnas from the Security Committee of the Lithuanian Seimas.
These Lithuanians may be subject to recruitment, the authors of the report warn.
We should be aware that in Russia, it is the FSB that deals with post-Soviet countries. However, Lithuania is both a former Soviet republic and a country of the European Union and NATO. Basically, all special services can be actively targeting Lithuania in Belarus.
“Both the FSB and the Foreign Intelligence Service, as well as the GRU of the General Staff of Russia, who, naturally, do not coordinate their specific operations with their Belarusian colleagues, can be working on the territory of Belarus. As part of the interaction, they inform their Belarusian colleagues that certain actions will be carried out,” explains Mykhailo Samus from the Ukrainian Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies.
The question is how deep this information exchange is running. According to interstate agreements, the Russian special services must receive official permission from Minsk for any operation. But in practice it looks strange: after the abduction of a Ukrainian citizen Pavel Hryb in Homiel by FSB agents and his removal to Smolensk, Belarus did not disown this act and did not take part of the responsibility for it. This leads experts to believe that Minsk controls Russian spies in the same way as the United Kingdom does, where last year the GRU poisoned Sergei Skripal.
“Basically, Russia behaves itself with Belarus in the same way as in relation to its enemies from the countries of NATO and the EU. This is primarily a signal to Belarus, indicating that Belarus is no longer viewed by Russia as a friendly country,” says Arseny Sivitski, Director of the Center for Strategic and Foreign Policy Studies.
Thus, Belarus is losing trust in relations with Moscow and spoiling its image in the eyes of Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine. Belarus has not been responding to requests about Hryb for a year and a half.
“We still have not received a reply, either through closed or through open diplomatic channels,” says Mykhailo Samus.
But the Belarusian diplomats’ reaction to the Lithuanian report was immediate: Minsk described the assessments made by Vilnius as emotional and offensive. They said that if anyone is interested in driving a wedge into our relationship, it is some Lithuanian politicians on the eve of the elections.
“The threat to the neighbors will never come from the territory of Belarus. We call on politicians in Lithuania to temper their militant fervor and adopt a more peaceful tone. Our region needs peace and harmony, not hate speech,” said Andrey Shuplyak, Deputy Head of the Information and Digital Diplomacy Department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.
Belarusian diplomats forget that intelligence in the West serves not the politicians, but the country. And it is Minsk that successfully drives a wedge into our relations with Vilnius. For example, the behavior around the construction of the Astravets NPP. It looks like Minsk is not going to share a monopoly on damage to these relations with Moscow.
“Alyaksandr Lukashenka has been conducting a very clear and consistent policy as to rule out a situation when the Russian military would command Belarusian. When it comes to intelligence services, this approach is three times stronger,” said Alexander Golts from ej.ru.
Minsk may not be able to control the Russian special services (the Salisbury operation demonstrated that they do not respect any borders), but for ten years Lukashenka has been trying to implement his own foreign policy, which does not coincide with the Russian one.
“Belarus did not support Russia in the international arena in issues that are quite critical for the Kremlin, such as recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia or recognition of the annexation of Crimea. It seems to me that this is a clear evidence that Belarus can pursue an independent foreign policy, despite its rather close relations with Russia,” believes Arseny Sivitski.
Belarus will remain a threat to Lithuania, at least until the Russian special services stop abducting foreign citizens on our territory without explanation.
Denis Dziuba, belsat.eu