The president of Lithuania did not mince words; she likened Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive territorial expansion into Crimea to a strategy carried out by two of history’s most ruthless dictators: former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin and Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told German newspaper Moscow Times Sunday that “Putin uses nationality as a pretext to conquer territory with military means. That’s exactly what Stalin and Hitler did. Such comparisons are spot on.”
She worried that the Russians would be able to bribe their way into maintaining a sphere of influence with their neighbors. “According to our information, there are Russian offers in other Baltic states to reduce the prices for oil or gas if these countries leave NATO,” she said.
Grybauskaite said Russia’s foreign policy under Putin has been “characterised by aggressiveness, violence, and a willingness to overstep boundaries.”
Grybauskaite sought for the West to become completely economically independent from Russia, warning that it was “too risky” for countries to continue cooperation with Moscow. “Putin has a missionary vision to defend the Eastern Hemisphere. He has in mind a Russia like that of the time of Catherine the Great. His character has developed strangely,” she asserted.
The Lithuanian president, born in the Soviet Union, said she saw Russia as a state that still wanted to keep iron-fisted control over post-Soviet Union countries. She hoped Baltic countries, such as Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, would become “unreliable” towards Russia as “members of NATO and the EU.”
Following her 2014 re-election, she stated that her foreign policy doctrine was one of “dignity, self-respect and mutual benefit,” adding, “These are the principles that should set the basis for relations between countries and no doubt, knowing that [Russia] is our neighbor, we wish this country to democratize and cope with the arising economic challenges.”
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made similar comments in March, stating that Putin’s power grab into Crimea was comparable to Hitler’s territorial expansion prior to the outbreak of WWII. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the 30s,” said Clinton.