Europe should slap an arms embargo on Russia, and France should cancel its sale of warships to the country, according to Lithuania’s president.
Trading security for profit is “dangerous,” Dalia Grybauskaite said yesterday in an interview in Vilnius, the capital, urging a ban on sales of military technology and weapons to Russia after the Malaysia Air jet disaster. France says it will deliver the first Mistral ship to Russia in October because it’s built and paid for, though it may halt a second. The EU will discuss tightening sanctions against Russia today.
“When we put a price tag of 1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) on European security, it’s an alarm bell,” Grybauskaite said. “If that’s the meager price of Europe’s security, and if it’s that easy to buy some countries off, then the brutal aggression in Europe will never end. And if the aggressor is aware, it will respond with even more audacious actions.”
The U.S. and its allies accuse President Vladimir Putin of arming pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine’s easternmost regions and say the insurgents probably shot down Flight MH17 last week, killing all 298 people on board. France has faced growing criticism for its Mistral contract with Russia, which denies meddling in Ukraine’s conflict.
Delivery of the second Mistral ship “will depend on the attitude of the Russians,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said July 22 in an interview on TF1 television. “Signed contracts must be honored,” he said.
Grybauskaite warned that the warship may end up in a fleet deployed in the Baltic or Black Seas.
“I hope he didn’t have in mind agreements on lethal weapons for countries that support terrorism,” she said. That means “supplying military equipment to Russia, a country that openly supports terrorists downing civil airplanes.”
Russia has rejected suggestions it was connected in any way to the missile that downed the Malaysian jet and this week sought to link Ukraine’s military, rather than the rebels.
EU foreign ministers will today consider restricting Russia’s access to capital markets and sensitive technologies. Grybauskaite said Europe lacks a “common assessment of the situation in Ukraine and of the Kremlin’s actions.”
Lithuania escaped Soviet-rule more than two decades ago. The nation of 3 million has been frustrated in repeated calls for stronger sanctions to augment the visa bans and asset freezes applied against Russian individuals and some companies.
“Alas, we don’t see a unanimous standpoint and that’s creating an environment for blunt and impudent actions from Russia,” Grybauskaite said. “The principle of ‘buy and conquer’ wins.”