Breaking Dependency on Russia, China Will Cost Us, but It’s Worth It: Lithuanian Foreign Minister

By Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at
February 10, 2022 Updated: February 11, 2022

The cost of goods such as iPhones, shoes, and electricity could go up if countries break from their dependency on Russia and China, but it’s the price the world must pay to safeguard the rules-based order, Lithuania’s foreign minister has stated.

Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis made the comments in an address to the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on Feb. 10, where he called for tighter global alliances and a stronger response in dealing with the twin challenges posed by Moscow and Beijing.

Lithuania currently sits on two major geopolitical fault lines—on the one hand, it must confront rising tensions on the neighbouring Ukrainian border with Russian troops mobilising in their thousands, while on the other, it has been the subject of ongoing economic coercion from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“For decades now, there were those who were convinced it is possible through the liberalisation of trade to bring values like rule of law and democracy to others,” he said. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case—quite the opposite actually.”

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Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis addresses the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on Feb. 10, 2022. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

“It appears that profitability created dependencies, dependencies that limit the possibility of one side to even ask for responsibility from the other,” he said.

“Take the case of energy supply for Europe. Seemingly cheap energy supply from Russia to Europe has not created incentives for Russia to reform, but it definitely has limited the possibility of Europeans to react to possible Russian military aggression.”

Landsbergis said that if Russia were to cut oil, gas, or coal exports to European Union nations—of which it is a significant source—energy prices would skyrocket, hamstringing the response from governments.

In contrast, Lithuania had built “resilience” that Landsbergis hoped could inspire other countries. He pointed to the 2014 decision to purchase an LNG terminal, after years of dependency on Russia, which allowed the Baltic nation to import its own gas supplies—contributing to some of the cheapest electricity prices on the continent.

When asked by a student invited to the Press Club on what individuals could do in response to the lack of solid action from governments in dealing with China and Russia, Landsbergis said to keep speaking out on those issues and noted that there would be a cost to acting.

“Sometimes there is wishful thinking that we can get a Green Deal and not pay one dollar on the euro. It won’t happen. It’s costly, and we will have to pay it,” he said.

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Men work at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in Lubmin, northeastern Germany, on March 26, 2019. (Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images)

“If we don’t want to purchase things from forced labour camps, that means our shoes will be a bit more expensive, iPhones can get much more expensive, and things like that,” he said. “These things do cost, but principles cost. We have to understand on which side are we?”

Landsbergis noted that three weeks prior, during discussions in Germany on banning imports from forced labour-linked supply chains, concerns were raised that Europe could not meet its “green objectives” if it decoupled.

European nations and the United States have been accused of “outsourcing” emissions-intensive industries to developing countries—namely China—so they can meet their own net-zero demands.

Meanwhile, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute estimated in early 2020 that around 80,000 Uyghurs in China’s westernmost Xinjiang province were forced to work in labour supply chains associated with major brands such as Apple, Nike, the Gap, BMW, Samsung, Sony, and Volkswagen.

Beijing-Moscow, Strange Bedfellows

Regarding the Beijing-Moscow axis and its recent joint statement released during the Winter Olympic Games, Landsbergis said he did not believe everything was rosy with the alliance.

“For example, if I remember correctly, it doesn’t say a word about the ‘security guarantees’ that (Vladimir) Putin is asking. I’m absolutely sure that Putin wanted to have this because he’s constantly repeating this every day and in every statement that he makes,” the foreign minister said.

Since late 2021, Putin has been calling on Western democratic nations to sign off on security guarantees around the Ukrainian situation.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping (R) meets Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) in Beijing on Feb. 4, 2022. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

Landsbergis said that Russian Foreign Minister Sergeĭ Viktorovich Lavrov even sent a letter to every minister in the European Union and NATO asking on an individual basis, “What do we think about the security guarantees that Russia is asking for?”

“So obviously, he asked the same thing from China, but he (Putin) didn’t get it,” Landsbergis said. “There are interesting missing points. I would say they are partners in this because of necessity, not because they really like it.”

While the English-language translation of the joint statement saw Moscow reaffirm support for the One China policy, acknowledging that Taiwan was an “inalienable part of China”—an issue Putin had very little interest in, according to Landsbergis. Beijing, in turn, only said it was “sympathetic” to proposals around binding security guarantees in Europe but stopped short of committing.

Daniel Y. Teng
Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at