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Russian soldiers march in a parade in Kaliningrad to mark Victory Day, May 9, 2014 (© Michal Fludra/ NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make maddening. At the end of the European Union’s Malta summit in February, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, dismissed the British Prime Minister Theresa May’s appeal to engage “constructively and patiently” with the Trump administration: “I don’t think there is a necessity for a bridge,” the Iron Lady of Lithuania (as Ms Grybauskaite likes to be known) declared, apparently in jest: “We communicate with the Americans on Twitter.”

Consider who is speaking here about whom. Lithuania is a Baltic state with an area smaller than Scotland and a population smaller than Wales. Apart from a brief period between the wars, it had been ruled by its larger neighbours for centuries until it gained independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago. President Grybauskaite also calls herself an independent; yet she is anything but. Her career moved seamlessly from serving the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to serving the Commission of the European Union. That progression from commissar to commissioner has apparently equipped her with a mindset that makes anti-Americanism instinctive. And, like the rest of the European heads of government gathered in Malta, Lithuania’s Iron Lady evidently has a particular antipathy towards Donald Trump.

Ah, yes: Mr Trump. He is now the only subject on which the European Union can agree. Even Brexit has not united the 27 member states (some of whose citizens have a sneaking admiration and envy for the British) as completely as the election of an American president whom many Eurocrats see as worse than Vladimir Putin. (When asked which of the two was a greater threat to the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission President refused to say.) The Cold War fantasy of the EU being the third superpower between the US and the USSR is by no means dead. On the eve of the Malta summit, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, declared that with “the new [Trump] administration seeming to put into question the last 70 years of American foreign policy . . . the disintegration of the European Union will not lead to some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China.” In other words: the EU can and must become a superpower too, as long as its members toe the Brussels line. This thinking lies behind the recent revival of plans for the EU to create its own armed forces.

Back in the late 16th and early 17th century, Lithuania had a claim to be a superpower too: the united commonwealth of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania ruled over a vast multi-ethnic empire in eastern Europe, stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. In Mussorgsky’s operatic masterpiece Boris Godunov, set in this period, the threat to Russia from Lithuania is a constant leitmotif. But in modern times, Lithuania — like the other Baltic states and indeed all of central and eastern Europe — has only been able to escape the gravitational pull of Russia to the east and Germany to the west by virtue of an international order based on the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, which has been ultimately guaranteed by the United States.

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October 24th, 2017
7:10 PM
The author has never been in Kaliningrad-Konigsberg. Why write a lie? There live normal people, not distressed. We also do not want war as you are. Our army on its territory, and that makes the American. And good to remember that 70% of königsberg was razed to the ground British aircraft in 1945. Come join us in the city, talk to people, look at our life and you will realize that we Jeno so different from you.

March 2nd, 2017
12:03 PM
"Ukraine’s territorial integrity was guaranteed by the signatories of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum" What is also disturbinb to Americans is that this "agreement" was never ratified by our Senate. It reeks of the pre-World War I commitment of Britain to aid France and Belgium -- resulting in an automatic road to war without consultation with Parliament or the British people. I thought such "gentlemen's agreements" were ruled out after 1918; but here they are back again -- diplomats commit their countries and peoples to wars over obscure obligations about which they were not consulted, over borders and foreign disputes in which they have no interest.

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