Poland and Baltic states: "When we join forces, when we join our diplomatic efforts, we are better heard."

The Foreign Ministers of the three Baltic states and Poland met in Rīga January 31, with the occasion serving to provide plenty of optimism about close future cooperation with each other and an equal amount of pessimism about the chances of Russia changing its imperialistic and genocidal ambitions in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Asked what the prospects were for future diplomatic relations with Russia, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs provided a one-sentence reply:

"Those are going to be low-energy relations as long as Russia continues its war against Ukraine."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis was slightly more expansive, saying: "A month ago, Lithuania was I think the only country in the EU without an ambassador in Moscow and without a Russian ambassador in Vilnius. We took the decision to lower our diplomatic relations to charge d'affaires level after the massacre in Bucha was revealed. Now, in the group of the Baltic countries, and most probably [elsewhere], I would not exclude the possibility that more countries can be convinced this is the way to go."

"In many cases there is little use, honestly, of having an ambassador, a Russian ambassador, in any of the European capitals because, as we have seen, quite often it is the case – I would say in most cases – that it's no longer a diplomatic institution. It's an institution of propaganda covering up crimes of war and in general promoting what is in general, unfortunately, a genocidal agenda of the Russian regime."

Similarly, Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said that unless Russia was prepared to withdraw from Ukraine, pay reparations and hand over war crimes perpetrators for trial in The Hague, the prospects for anything other than very remote relations were negligible.

"Very often, Russian diplomats and all other members of the Russian foreign service turn to activities that have nothing to do with diplomacy. So, to be very open with you, as long as Russia is being involved in its aggression against Ukraine... nothing indicates that our mutual bilateral relations with Russia will change."

Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu said there was a "vast list of unacceptable actions of Russian diplomats on European soil", that Estonia had learned from the past and that "in framing our bilateral relation perspective all the context of relations are dependent on the outcome of the war, of accountability, of reparations, of liberation of all Ukrainian territory."




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Indeed, the lessons of the past were to the fore throughout the ministers' press conference, with Rau saying:

"Since February last year the foreign policy of each and every European country has been conducted in the shadow of Russian aggression against Ukraine. Our four countries shared common experience coming from the past of being victims of imperial and totalitarian politics of our neighbours, and this shared experience gives us a very strong sense of responsibility and solidarity vis-a-vis the current formula of Russian imperialism."

"Whenever we have a chance to make a public statement as diplomats, whether in the European Union, whether among our allies in NATO, or also in the United Nations, we draw attention to the Russian threat," Rau said.

The ministers signed a joint declaration on further strengthening consultations and cooperation, suggesting that other ministries and government departments could also join the initiative. Preparations for the Vilnius NATO summit in the summer were discussed, and all four countries also stressed that at EU level what Landsbergis and Reinsalu both called "loopholes and derogations" from sanctions should not be allowed.

There was also pride displayed that Poland and the Baltics had been among Ukraine's staunchest supporters, with all four countries pledged to continue their support.

"It is our four countries that provide most weapons, eqipment and ammunition to Ukraine if we count our efforts per capita... our philosophy is to aid Ukraine as much as possible and as soon as possible. We all do exactly, exactly that, so as far as support for Ukraine is concerned we are acting in the same way," said Rau.

"We also speak in one voice when it comes to restrictive measures imposed on Russia in the European Union or more broadly by the transatlantic comunity or the free world as a whole... when we join forces, when we join our diplomatic efforts we are better heard, we seem to bemore convincing and we seem to be in a position to deliver more persuasive arguments."

The full text of the joint declaration also stresses the shared historical perspective of the Baltic states and Poland. It can be read here and is also attached to this story in PDF format.

"Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland share a similar historical experience of aggression and severe oppression by revisionist totalitarian regimes during many decades of the 20th century. Due to our common past, we have developed a similar understanding of potential threats and the determination to strengthen our security and protect our independence and territorial integrity," it reads.

Baltic and Polish foreign ministers sign joint declaration

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