As we noted last week, Barack Obama’s speech in Tallinn, Estonia, declaring that NATO would defend the sovereignty of the Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — has not gone unnoticed in Moscow. Less than 48 hours after Obama gave his speech, Russian FSB agents crossed the Estonian frontier and abducted an Estonian counter-intelligence officer. The man is still being held incommunicado by the Russians and denied a visit from the Estonian consul, a rather blatant violation of the Vienna Convention to which Russia is a signatory.
Now they have followed it up with a demand that Lithuania undertake an investigation of Lithuanians who either refused to serve in the Soviet Army or who deserted from the Soviet Army:
Russia has asked Lithuania to help investigate an individual who refused to serve in the Soviet army in the early 1990s, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office said Monday.
The request suggests that Russia is reopening criminal investigations against Lithuanian residents who refused to serve in the Soviet army after Lithuania declared its independence in 1990, before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The request concerned one Lithuanian citizen who had left the Soviet army, said Elena Martinoniene, head of communications at the Lithuanian prosecutor general’s office.
This is obviously nonsense. As the men in question did not refuse to serve in the Russian Army or desert from the Russian Army it is hard to see what legitimate legal interest Russia has in pursuing these cases. They do, however, have a legitimate political interest. This demand, which is really an assertion that Lithuanians are subject to Russian law, is a direct affront to Lithuanian independence. While it will not succeed it does add to the general unease gripping the Baltic States as they watch Russian maul Ukraine and may make them more malleable to Russian demands… one of which, for certain, will be that they withdraw from NATO.
Were the United States led by a more resolute president, this kind of demand would be given the rebuff it deserves. But we aren’t led by a resolute man, we are led by a timorous, disinterested Barack Obama. While his speech sounded the right note, that speech without the courage to back it up with action will encourage Russia into more high stakes adventures and make Europe a much more dangerous place.