| BERLIN, June 22
BERLIN, June 22 Lithuania's president likened
the tactics of Russian President Vladimir Putin to those
employed by Stalin and Hitler, and said in a magazine interview
that Moscow was trying to persuade Baltic states to leave NATO
in exchange for cheaper oil or gas.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in March said
Putin's incursion into Crimea was akin to moves Hitler made in
the years before World War Two, though she said the following
day that she was not making a comparison.
Asked whether such comparisons to Hitler or Stalin went too
far, Dalia Grybauskaite told German news magazine Focus on
Sunday: "(Putin) uses nationality as a pretext to conquer
territory with military means. That's exactly what Stalin and
Hitler did. Such comparisons are spot on."
Grybauskaite said Russia wanted to maintain its influence in
territories that were once part of the Soviet Union and added it
particularly wanted to keep the Baltic states dependent on it
economically and in terms of energy policy.
She said Russia wanted the Baltic states - Latvia, Lithuania
and Estonia - to become "unreliable members of NATO and the EU".
"According to our information, there are Russian offers in
other Baltic states to reduce the prices for oil or gas if these
countries leave NATO," she said.
Grybauskaite said the West should seek to become
economically independent of Russia and diversify, because it was
"too risky" for countries to continue to depend on Russia.
"Putin has a missionary vision to defend the eastern
hemisphere. He has in mind a Russia like that of the time of
Catherine the Great. His character has developed strangely," she
The West has accused Russia of supporting the insurgency in
Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine that followed Moscow's
annexation of Crimea.
She said Russia and Putin were "characterised by
aggressiveness, violence, and a willingness to overstep
boundaries" and added that Baltic states and Poland "constantly"
experienced this, with military exercises taking place almost
every week in Kaliningrad, Russia's western exclave.
She said a Russian invasion of the Baltic states was
unlikely given their NATO membership, but added they needed to
be better prepared so no one would even consider it.
She said they were increasing military spending and called
on NATO to have more of a presence in the region in the future.
Baltic leaders said on Saturday they would back further
sanctions against Russia at a European Union summit this week
unless there was a de-escalation in eastern Ukraine where Kiev
is trying to quell a pro-Russian insurgency.
Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia - which all broke away from
the Soviet Union in 1990-1991 - had already called for tougher
EU sanctions against Moscow after its annexation of Crimea.
(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Sophie Hares)