(CNSNews.com) – The foreign minister of Lithuania, one of Europe’s leading critics of the autocratic regimes in Beijing and Moscow, warned fellow European countries on Wednesday not to repeat past mistakes made in relation to Russia, in their dealings with China.
Gabrielius Landsbergis also urged Europe not to look to the Chinese government to mediate an end to the war in Ukraine.
“We are capable of defending Europe without Chinese help,” he said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Instead of requesting assistance we should be projecting our strengths, showing the world that Ukraine, Europe and the U.S. are willing and able to secure the European continent. That is the only signal we should be sending.”
Landsbergis’ statement underlined the importance of transatlantic unity and also included a strong statement of support for Taiwan.
As such, the points he made appeared at least in part to be a response to French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial remarks on the need for Europe to exercise “strategic autonomy” and avoid being drawn into a U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan.
Macron’s comments on Europe, the U.S., and Taiwan, drew sharp condemnation from senior Republicans in the U.S., with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling them “galling” and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Select Committee on China, telling Fox News they were “embarrassing” and “very geopolitically naïve.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said that while Macron was advising Europe against siding with the U.S. on Taiwan, the U.S. was “spending a lot of our taxpayer money on a European war.” Rubio also wondered whether Macron was speaking for Europe.
China has embraced Macron’s calls for “strategic autonomy” for Europe. Foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Wednesday it was no surprise that Macron’s stance had drawn criticism – especially in the U.S., which he depicted as a country unhappy to see others exercising independence and which “often seeks to coerce others into doing its bidding.”
Although Landsbergis did not mention Macron directly, his statement took issue with appeals for China to help on Ukraine, stressed support for Taiwan, and for the transatlantic relationship – which Macron’s comments have been interpreted as calling into question.
On Taiwan, the Lithuanian foreign minister said, “We must declare that the island and its democracy-loving people are part of the rules-based order and that we will fight against any attempt to change the status quo by force.”
On transatlantic unity, he said Europe “must protect and defend it, not dismantle it.”
“I propose we recognize the benefits and necessity of transatlantic unity, and commit to globally defending the rules we all agreed on,” he said. “I don’t suggest begging for dictators to help secure peace in Europe. There is a long and bloody trail of evidence against that strategy.”
On relations with China more broadly, Landsbergis said Europe must learn from its mistakes with Russia.
“For years the West said economic cooperation would persuade dictators to support rules based international order. But all we did was feed their economies while letting them break all the rules,” he said. “China is betting that we will repeat this mistake.”
“Unfortunately, our geopolitical blindness has not yet been cured. We chose not to see the threat of Russian aggression, and now we are choosing not to see the threat of Chinese aggression,” Landsbergis said.
“Our strategy clearly failed with Putin. Now, instead of increasing defense spending and manufacturing output or strengthening our transatlantic connection, we are asking another totalitarian to help us ‘secure peace’ in Europe?”
In February, China released a position paper on “the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” proposing a ceasefire and a return to Russia-Ukraine talks, but not calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.
The U.S. government responded skeptically, questioning China’s attempt to portray itself as an impartial party after having failed to condemn the invasion and effectively siding with Russia, economically and politically.
Along with its Baltic neighbors and Poland, Lithuania is on the frontlines of the confrontation between Russia and the West, and among the most hawkish countries in Europe in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
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