On november 23 a discussion was held at the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC) to discuss the challenges of national security in managing the migration crisis in Lithuania. The discussion was attended by Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Chairman of the National Security and Defense Committee of the Republic of Lithuania (NSDC), Former Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Saulius Skvernelis, and other guests took part in the discussion. The event was hosted by EESC Senior Policy Analyst Vladimir Laučius.
During the meeting, Laurynas Kasčiūnas, Chairman of the NSDC, said that at the national level it is important to ensure that foreign authoritarian states do not have the ability to exert influence on the country’s strategic companies. For this reason, it is important bar the way for all large direct investments from states such as China. In the geopolitical context, the permanent presence of US troops on the country’s soil is important for Lithuania, this being one of the key points in the current government’s programme.
Speaking about the potential Chinese response to Lithuania regarding the opening of Taiwan’s Representative Office in Lithuania, Kasčiūnas did not rule out the possibility that Lithuania could also face cyber-attacks, but the success of such attacks was questioned due to Lithuania’s well-developed cyber-security capabilities. The speakers believed that the current Chinese policy may lead Lithuania to look for new alternatives in terms of economic relations in the region. These alternatives could include Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
During the meeting, Mr. Kasčiūnas also agreed with the former Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Saulius Skvernelis that the biggest breakthrough in border security infrastructure was achieved in 2016-2018, with the construction of a wall being established by law during this period. At the moment, at least 10 km of concertina is expected to be built on the border with Belarus every week. Regarding German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conversation with Aliaksandr Lukashenko, the Chairman of the NSGK was sceptical, given how no strong position was voiced towards Belarus. It is believed that the conversation proceeded in a completely different direction, with the aim of involving Mr Lukashenko in the discussion, thus implicitly recognising him as a head of state. The core problem with this conversation, in Kasčiūnas’s view, was that the ‘frontline’ countries – Lithuania and Poland – were not consulted beforehand to agree on a common position.
During the meeting, Skvernelis also said that the current Lithuanian-Belarusian border is fairly well protected by various technological solutions, such as sensors, cameras, etc., but in the context of today’s migration, it is difficult to stop all those who try to cross the border illegally, which is why a physical border guard presence is needed. Mr Skvernelis noted that it is possible to reconcile the national security aspect with human rights and other reputational issues in the international arena.