I met with the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Seimas of Lithuania, Žygimantas Pavilionis, in Washington, DC. He was in Tbilisi last week and, together with his German, Czech, Polish, and Finnish colleagues, expressed strong support for the choice of the Georgian people - to become a full member of the European Union. Speaking about his impressions in Tbilisi, the Lithuanian politician tells me that today Georgia has a historical moment and must prepare to save its future.

- The visit to Tbilisi reminded me of the history of 2008 when our president stood in the exact same place with the leaders of other countries and defended Georgia from an external aggressor. It seems that the external aggressor has now gotten under Georgia's skin. Bidzina Ivanishvili openly declared war on the West. He is trying to do this in the same way as the Kremlin did in Russia in 2012. In Russia, the "Foreign Agents" law was passed to counter the Magnitsky list. I was working in Washington DC then, and I remember well how Moscow used this law as a tool to purge the country of liberal and democratic elements. It was and is part of a declaration of open war against the US. Russia is now acting in the same scenario in the neighborhood. This is a completely clear scenario, so I have only one question - will the United States accept this challenge without reaction? If America continues to be silent about the "Georgian dream," which my German colleague, Michael Roth, called the "Georgian nightmare," then Putin will get a kind of license to do whatever he has planned in Georgia. 

- In addition to the political influence, which is already clearly visible in Georgia, let's talk about what future plans Russia has in the South Caucasus region?

- Russia wants to regain access to the Black Sea. As you know, it tried to defeat the Ukrainians in the Black Sea, but it didn't work, and the Kremlin wants to halt the progress of Armenia in the region. Of course, the Kremlin's goal is to restore full control in the region. Why should we agree to this? Especially when the Georgian people do not support this process.

- Despite numerous warning messages, the Georgian government is trying to pretend that it is not afraid of sanctions. To what extent do these sanctions need to be tougher?

- Sanctions worked quite effectively in Moldova, and I think they will be a powerful tool in Bidzina Ivanishvili's case as well because it is clear that he is only concerned about personal wealth and the interests of his children. However, he is afraid of losing control in the country because when countries align with the European Union, all Soviet vestiges disappear automatically - such is the nature of the European Union. The European state should introduce laws that will not give one person or one businessman the opportunity to put the whole country in his pocket. The European Union itself means sharing power with each citizen, taking into account and protecting the interests of the weakest, and also considering a variety of choices. And Bidzina Ivanishvili undermines all of this because it is personally dangerous for him. However, we know Georgians well and understand that Georgia is fundamentally different from Bidzina Ivanishvili's personal interests. I was convinced of this once again when I met the young people on the streets of Tbilisi. Nevertheless, I must also say that we may be witnessing the last months of Georgian democracy. I sincerely hope that Georgians will unite to save Georgia. Historically, the enemy has always tried to divide the Georgians in order to rule the entire country. If you do not wish to return to a Soviet-style oppression, now is the time to come together. Those concerned about Georgia's future must unite, including the president, the seemingly fragmented opposition, and the students who should channel their protests into political objectives. Everyone must realize that Georgia is facing a European referendum. It is already evident that the government intends to manipulate the elections. This law aims to eliminate Georgian non-governmental organizations and the opposition that would monitor the elections. Similar scenarios have unfolded in Russia and Belarus. The Georgian people must safeguard freedom and democracy, and we, as friends of Georgia, will do everything in our power to support you.

- Alongside American sanctions, to what extent is it necessary for the European Union to take appropriate steps?

- Most likely, we will not be able to impose individual sanctions similar to the USA because "Georgia's nightmare" has a friend in the EU, Hungary. They have infected the "Georgian Dream" with lies and given hope that they can protect Georgia. It's a lie! No one will allow such a Georgia into the European Union. It is clear to all European capitals that the Georgian government is punishing its own nation for its dream of joining the European Union and NATO. We have been discussing the upcoming NATO summit in Washington for several days, and it is regrettable that nobody mentions Georgia in this context. It is evident that, on Putin's instructions, Bidzina Ivanishvili is stealing the future of Georgia, and it is painful to see this happening in a country that was the first victim of Russian aggression.

- Georgia has crucial elections scheduled for October, and as you mentioned, it will be a sort of European referendum. How important is it for the Georgian people to feel that the West is closely monitoring the processes?

- I fear that the "Georgian Nightmare" will resort to despicable actions for these elections, as they are already doing in principle. The process of demonizing the opposition, as well as brutally attacking them, is already underway, even when the police and other state institutions are aware of it. These are the tactics of people who, like both us Lithuanians and Georgians, lived in a Russian prison for years. Therefore, now is truly a watershed moment for Georgia. We will do our best to stand together with Georgians and support you. However, it is crucial to note that everything is still in the hands of the Georgian people - will you allow fear to dominate you, as they are only powerful when people are afraid to fight for their rights. Remember that today the whole world stands with the Georgian people. When the German social-democratic leader Michael Roth addressed the Georgian nation in Tbilisi, it was the most significant and special moment in my life. I have been in politics for 27 years, and I truly cannot recall anything quite like it. Typically, Germans did not pay attention to states like ours. Now, everything has changed. We must also recognize that historically, the window of opportunity for the European Union and NATO opens and closes roughly every 20 years. Therefore, it is imperative not to allow the "Georgian nightmare" to rob the future of generations. Look at the youth of Lithuania - today we have the strongest, wealthiest, and happiest youth. According to statistics, Lithuanians under the age of 30 are the happiest on the planet. Sometimes, even I find this hard to believe, given that I still vividly remember the political zoo of the Soviet Union. Georgian youth can find even greater happiness than us. The future of the generation born and raised in independent Georgia should not be stolen by individuals under the Kremlin's influence. During my two nights in Tbilisi, I couldn't sleep. I observed young people waving the EU flag in front of the Georgian Parliament - it was a powerful sight. I am certain that the authorities will use all their power against them, against the Georgian people but you should not be afraid. Be prepared and stand your ground. Get ready, as this is your historic moment!


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