A Lithuanian political leader with influence over his country’s foreign policy says the U.S. should not push for Ukraine-Russia peace talks until all Russian forces are removed from Ukraine and Kyiv is made a member of NATO.
“You never negotiate with terrorists, you just kill them, wipe them out and you actually jail them,” Žygimantas Pavilionis said in some of the harshest comments on record from an Eastern European leader about Russia‘s nearly year-old invasion of Ukraine.
Mr. Pavilionis, who heads the Lithuanian parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, made the remarks during an appearance last week on “The Capitol Hill Show With Tim Constantine,” a podcast produced by The Washington Times.
When asked who he believes should be involved in any peace talks and who should serve as arbiter of such talks, Mr. Pavilionis responded bluntly.
“F-16s, ATACMS and our victory,” he said, referring to U.S. military equipment that Ukraine has requested but has not yet received, including the Army Tactical Missile System.
While the U.S. and Germany recently approved the transfer of American-made M1 Abrams and German-made Leopard 2 A6 battle tanks for Ukraine, the Biden administration held off on equipment such as fighter jets and ATACMS.
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Ukraine has been asking the U.S. for months for long-range surface-to-surface ATACMS, which could be fired by the Lockheed Martin-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, that Washington began providing to Ukrainian forces last year.
Truck-mounted HIMARS launchers have been critical for Ukraine. But U.S. officials, citing fear of triggering an escalation by Russia, have held back on providing longer-range ATACMS missiles, which Defense News has reported would give Ukrainian forces the capability to hit Russian targets nearly 200 miles away.
“Our view is that we think the Ukrainians can change the dynamic on the battlefield and achieve the type of effects they want to push the Russians back without ATACMS,” Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters in mid-January, the publication reported.
Some analysts have argued the decision represents an overture to Moscow in hopes of spurring a Ukraine-Russia peace negotiation.
Mr. Pavilionis disagreed with Washington’s calculus on the ATACMS.
He appeared on “The Capitol Hill Show With Tim Constantine” alongside Radosław Fogiel, who heads the Foreign Affairs Committee of Poland’s lower house of parliament, and Oleksandr Merezhko, who heads the Ukrainian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Policy and Interparliamentary Cooperation.
“Give [the Ukrainians] anything they ask for,” said Mr. Pavilionis, who also chairs Lithuania’s ruling conservative Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats party.
In comments reflecting the depths of frustration among hawkish leaders in NATO‘s eastern-most member nations, he asserted that the “regime” of Russian President Vladimir Putin should be “punished” for not only invading Ukraine but also World War II and Soviet-era transgressions against Eastern European nations.
Mr. Pavilionis went so far as to argue that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt “sacrificed our nations” after meeting and dealing with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Yalta in 1945.
“[We] are standing in front of you today and asking you to fix that mistake, to defend … American values, values that we’ve been fighting for; a lot of troops died in Lithuania in the Second World War,” Mr. Pavilionis said. “Now Ukrainians are dying. So America, if you are still America, please defend it and enlarge NATO to Ukraine. Give them anything they ask for.”