“If you invade, don’t expect our people to make it easy for you.” – That was the message Lithuania sent to Russia Friday as it published a manual for its three million citizens on how to defend their homeland in the event of invasion.
Since Russia annexed Crimea two years ago, Lithuanians have been on edge.
Conscription has been restarted and defense spending ramped up, not to mention their now-answered calls for NATO to deploy more troops to the Baltics.
But even this is not enough to assuage anxiety — the Lithuanian government has Friday issued a 75-page guide on what to do if the country is invaded, entitled “Prepare to survive emergencies and war.”
“Attention needs to be paid to the actions of the neighboring country — Russia,” says the manual.
“This country does not hesitate to use a military force against its neighbors, and at this moment it basically continues the military aggression against Ukraine.”
It notes the Russian method of using “denial and ambiguity” at the beginning of an invasion and warns: “It is most important that the civilians are aware and have a will to resist — when these elements are strong, an aggressor has difficulties in creating an environment for military invasion.”
Hard-hitting new instructions
It is the third time the Lithuanian government has distributed a handbook of this type to its citizens since the Russian annexation of Crimea.
The last one, published in December 2015, was entitled “Prepare to survive emergencies and war: a cheerful take on serious recommendations.”
It included cartoons of a family with a cat and noted that “while no country is immune to adversities of any nature” it is important not to panic if there is an emergency.
There is nothing cheerful about the latest edition, which details how Lithuanians should spy and inform on the enemy if Russia succeeds in occupying part of the country.
There are also detailed images of Russian-made tanks, grenades, mines and guns and instructions on how to recognize different types. Further instructions cover first aid and surviving in the wild.
There will be 30,000 copies available in schools and libraries and it will also be published online.
Lithuania borders Russia’s strategically important enclave of Kaliningrad where it has been enhancing its already muscular military options, including the arrival of a nuclear-capable short-range ballistic missile system earlier this month.
The document reminds Lithuania’s people — of whom around six percent are Russian, according to the last census in 2011 — that the defense of the country is “the right and duty of every citizen”.
Citizens are the best early warning system
Karolis Aleksa from the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense, the editor of the manual, said that in times of invasion, “people become your early warning system,” and by reporting crucial details they can help intelligence officers and soldiers.
Lithuania’s defense minister, Juozas Olekas, said “We demonstrate that whoever crosses our border will have strong resistance from our society, from our military forces”
Lithuania lived under Soviet rule from 1940-1991. Thirty thousand Lithuanian resistance fighters were killed in the first 10 years as they tried to fight the Red Army from flimsy hideouts in Lithuania’s sprawling forests.
With ramped up defense spending, the reinstatement of conscription and NATO’s troops, Lithuania is at the front line of a new Cold War.
Its defense minister sees no thaw any time soon, he said: “President Putin only understands power against power.”
The new handbook aims to place some of that power in the hands of Lithuania’s people.