Russia’s shadow hangs over Macron’s visit to two Baltic states

In April 2018 at the Orsay Museum: Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, then-ruling Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Emmanuel Macron and then-ruling Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

Behind him, the graceful statues of the Orsay Museum formed a frozen audience. In April 2018, Emmanuel Macron celebrated the centenary of the independence of the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia by receiving their leaders. On the occasion of the inauguration of an exhibition on symbolism in these countries, the head of state expressed his determination to “Reject any logic of bloc in Europe”, between the south and the north of the continent, the west and the east. His trip to Lithuania and Latvia on September 28 and 29 confirms the attention Mr. Macron has paid, since the start of the quinquennium, to small member states, too neglected by Paris in the past.

Emmanuel Macron visited Estonia in September 2017, as part of the digital summit. Ten years earlier, this country had been a precursor, at its expense, by being the victim of a vast cyber attack, in the midst of tensions with Russia. This time, the French president will be in Vilnius and Riga, while two major crises concerning Moscow test European cohesion and determination: the poisoning of the opponent Alexeï Navalny and the repression of popular mobilization in Belarus.

French soldiers in Rukla, Lithuania, as part of NATO's

During his trip to Lithuania, Emmanuel Macron will visit the 300 French soldiers based in Rukla since this summer. This “Lynx” mission is integrated into a battalion under German command, as part of a NATO operation. In 2016, the Alliance decided to deploy a purely deterrent “enhanced forward presence” force in the Baltic States and Poland. This was an important political and military gesture towards those countries, the most sensitive to the issue of Russia’s aggressive actions in its immediate neighborhood.

“Smoke screen”

Emmanuel Macron wants to give pledges of solidarity and “To listen” Lithuanian and Latvian leaders, according to the Elysee. It will be about both showing convergences, such as the fight against disinformation and digital security, and hearing the historical trauma suffered by these countries. An approach identical to that adopted by the French president during his official visit to Poland at the beginning of February, where he had tried to teach “The architecture of trust and security” that he is researching with Russia.

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“Dialogue is always important, good and bad days, but it all depends on its foundations and its rules, confides to World Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius. Dialogue for dialogue is not useful, it sometimes serves as a smokescreen to do nothing. Usually, when Russia talks about dialogue, I fear that it is asking for an exception, for special treatment. Even when they talk about international law, Russians have their own rules, with recent constitutional amendments affirming the superiority of national laws. And when they talk about “reset” [relance] in relationships, I’m afraid they actually want to push the button wipe off, to start again on a blank page, forgetting what has been done, the violations of international law, the annexation, the occupation … “

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