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Five Takeaways from Conversations with Secretary Esper: Lithuania Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an event today for the McCain Institute at Arizona State University, Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Ingrida Šimonytė joined former U.S. Secretary of Defense and current John S. McCain Distinguished Fellow Dr. Mark T. Esper for the latest installment of Conversations with Secretary Esper. Their discussion centered around Lithuania’s solidarity, determination, and ability to defend NATO members’ territory and populations. The topics included Lithuania’s living memory, Russian sanctions, military aide to Ukraine, Lithuania’s strengthened NATO alliances, their LNG terminal, and victory for Ukraine.

The McCain Institute convenes experts to discuss the United States’ strategic security partnerships and how they address some of the most pressing challenges of our time: an increasingly aggressive Russian state, mounting international authoritarianism, the global plague of disinformation, and strategic competition. This event is part of a public conversation series between Dr. Esper and experts on various issues related to challenges and threats to U.S. national security.

Read a summary of our five takeaways from the conversation and view the full event HERE.

Five Key Takeaways from Conversations with Secretary Esper: Ingrida Šimonytė
  1. The values of a liberal democracy protect Lithuania and other Eastern European countries from Russia.
    • “For 50 years Lithuania wasn’t able to implement their right to have international relations with other countries because it was under occupation from 1940 until 1990. So this is, I think, why we can say that this living memory makes our “ears maybe a little bit thinner” to what is happening in other parts of the world.
    • “Lithuania is a country that is great, but not huge by territory or by number of inhabitants. So, for countries like Lithuania this general concept of the globe functioning, as a set of rules, not only friendly alliances, but also as a set of rules, is also a very pragmatic approach.
    • “[This is] because those rules typically enshrine the values that we speak about: The rule of law, freedom of speech, independence of courts, free elections, private property, and everything we base our countries and daily lives on. This set of rules, which we also call values—values of liberal democracy—is also something that protects countries like Lithuania in a practical way, from bulling by big ones.”
  2. Sanctions on Russia don’t cause an immediate win.
    • “Russia is a different society. In a country like the United States or Lithuania or any democratic state, the economic hardship would mean that people would not be happy about it, you will have protests or uprisings of the political opponents and in the nearest elections you’ll have dire problems. But in Russia this is different because they do not have any aspects of this democratic procedure. So, it doesn’t matter how many unhappy people there are.”
  3. Military aide is crucial to support Ukraine.
    • “Once [Ukraine] was provided with HIMARS weapons, we see how effective Ukraine is in freeing their land and getting back territories. And by that time, I’m sorry to say this, but too many people were killed because there was a hesitation of can we provide more sophisticated weapons or not … [N]ow we can see the efficiency of Ukraine is high level.”
  4. Article Five Feels like a real commitment.
    • “[Russia] is a country that has no limits … Now we have a Madrid Summit Declaration where we have in black and white that Russia is a threat … Then the presence of NATO partners on the ground. Contrary to what Putin was claiming where he was saying that Ukraine was creeping on Russia, this is absolutely not true because there was no presence until the annexation of Crimea and invasion of Donbas in 2014 … now [NATO’s] expanded because of the invasion on the 24th of February this year. So definitely the commitment of our partners and NATO countries, for Article 5, seem to be not only written in the text but also felt as a real commitment.”
  5. For Lithuania, the end of the war is total victory for Ukraine.
    • “For us, the end of the war is victory for Ukraine. Because if there is any sort of a Minsk cease fire on Putin’s terms, this means that Putin will come back, he will rearrange, he will regroup, he will replenish his stock one way or another … because he does not care about people’s lives, because the value of people’s lives is absolutely zero.”

Click HERE to view the full event.

About the McCain Institute at Arizona State University

Inspired by Senator John McCain and his family’s legacy, the McCain Institute at Arizona State University is non-partisan and fights to secure democracy and alliances, defend human rights, protect the vulnerable and advance character-driven leadership in all communities around the world.

About Arizona State University

Arizona State University has developed a new model for the American research university, creating an institution that is committed to access, excellence and impact. ASU measures itself by those it includes, not by those it excludes. As the prototype for a New American University, ASU pursues research that contributes to the public good, and ASU assumes major responsibility for the economic, social and cultural vitality of the communities that surround it.


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