On Monday, Sofia began their term with a visit from Mr. Žygimantas Pavilionis, the former Lithuanian Ambassador to the US and a present member of the Lithuanian Parliament. Mr. Pavilionis gave an engaging talk on “Europe Ahead: NATO, the EU and Russia”.
Mr. Pavilionis began his talk with his own memory of watching Lithuania leave the Soviet Union in 1990. He recalled the Russian tanks coming into Vilnius and the protests that turned them away, in which he took part. His own experiences and memories of Russian expansionism helped him build throughout his talk on the theme of modern day Russian military aggression that has its roots in Russia’s history of internal and external conflict.
The talk had an extremely pessimistic tone, as Mr Pavilionis believes that the West is not doing enough to prevent Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. To prevent further Russian aggression, he claimed a more confrontational policy was required by the West. He said “If aggressor states see that we do not fight for our values, they will fill the vacuum”.
Mr Pavilionis was not very optimistic that these policies to prevent Russian aggression would be utilised in the immediate future. Donald Trump’s foreign policy inexperience is of grave concern, as it is a factor that he believes could cause states like Russia to exploit Western vulnerabilities. He also took a pessimistic view of the capabilities of today’s youth. He argued that young people today take values like freedom and tolerance for granted and do not realise “you have to fight for these values every day”.
Mr Pavilionis continued to discuss these matters with the attendees of the event in Gingerman pub after the talk. The even was interesting but was also troubling as it highlighted some of the international relations issues we face due to the threat of modern day Russian expansion in Eastern Europe.