Home>Staying united in the dangerous game of democracy against autocracy : meeting with Ingrida Šimonyte, Prime Minister of Lithuania

04.11.2022

Staying united in the dangerous game of democracy against autocracy : meeting with Ingrida Šimonyte, Prime Minister of Lithuania

alt
Ingrida Šimonyte, Première ministre de Lituanie (crédits : Thomas Arrivé)

In early October 2022, Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) welcomed the Prime Minister of Lithuania who came to discuss with eager students about European values, peace and solidarity. Ingrida Šimonyte is a politician, economist but also former Chairperson of the Vilnius University Council. She gave a solid address about what unites European democracies and what separates them from authoritarian countries, focusing on the necessity of presenting a united front to the world to defend our shared values.

Democratic countries as part of a united puzzle

Mathias Vicherat, President of Sciences Po, greeted the Prime Minister, “We are very interested in your vision about Europe, about the war in Ukraine”. He added, “Prime Minister, we know that your government is placing priority on defending democracy and human rights. We share those with you”. 

Indeed, Ingrida Šimonyte explained that she sees the world as a “jigsaw puzzle”, composed of “bizarre pieces” that form one strong piece when assembled together. The underlying question is “how to solve the puzzle when the pieces are countries?”. Geography alone rarely unites countries, we’ve seen it time and time again. “What unites us is universal values and issues”, claimed the Prime Minister. That is why democracies condemn genocides, this is why we admire and root “for the bravery of people fighting for freedom”. It is only as we find common ground that “we can move to searching and finding common solutions”.

Authoritarian countries don’t play by the rules

Ingrida Šimonyte believes that “in a state of war between good and evil, agreeing to disagree is not possible”. Authoritarian countries like North Korea or Russia are, to her, whole different pieces of puzzle, from a different box. One of the favorite tools of autocrats is “to use our discourse”, calling our values of freedom “western lies”. The Prime Minister of Lithuania considers the Russia war in Ukraine as an “attempt to expand the Russian empire by the use of brutal force”. The twist is their ability to “show the independence of countries like manipulations from the western countries when they are the one actually trying to invade them”.

Another pattern of the autocrats’ behaviour is exploiting “any leverage : energy, investment, goods…” with the example of Russia’s current “blackmailing of Europe using the energy weapon”. Ingrida Šimonyte remembered that Russia did the same to Lithuania and criticised Russian media for “boasting that Russia will make Europe freeze this winter”. Authoritarian countries don’t care about “rules of law”, “human life” or their “international image”, it can result in “the kind of action that we cannot prepare for”. They’re a threat beyond their borders that can’t be ignored.

Clinging to each other to win the game

As a former Chairperson of the Vilnius University, the Lithuanian politician is convinced that teaching history to the young generations is the right way to fight the distortion of information used by Russia, that exploits “narrative about colonial western countries when in fact trying to revive the very same colonialism order”. Another improvement could also come from a better “strategic communication” to match the autocrats’ propaganda, although it is more difficult in countries that believe in freedom of speech. 

Above all, the solution will rise from solidarity between countries that “must cling to each other to resist the crisis”. Ingrida Šimonyte paid tribute to the way France showed its support to Ukraine through all actors: government, civic society and academic community, like Sciences Po’s. Lithuania is committed as well to help “as long as needed” because the country knows from its own experience of years of “bullying by Russia” that the authoritarian country won’t stop. Lithuania has rejoiced when seeing that the crisis in Ukraine has “rallied a democratic family of countries to defend themselves”. 

The value of human life cannot be compared to any currency” stated PSIA’s guest speaker. “The battle of democracy against autocracy won’t be won in days or weeks” but if democratic countries build relationships and unite, then “in the puzzle of the world politics, democracy will stand a better chance… and hopefully, autocracies will be less and less fitting into the puzzle”. 

MORE INFORMATION:

DOWNLOAD OUR BROCHURE

Sciences Po at 150

alt

Moving fluidly between past, present and future narratives, throughout 2022, Sciences Po draw on its history to look ahead to its future in a range of different formats and media.

Discover the 150 years website (FR).

04.11.2022

Staying united in the dangerous game of democracy against autocracy : meeting with Ingrida Šimonyte, Prime Minister of Lithuania

alt
Ingrida Šimonyte, Première ministre de Lituanie (crédits : Thomas Arrivé)

In early October 2022, Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) welcomed the Prime Minister of Lithuania who came to discuss with eager students about European values, peace and solidarity. Ingrida Šimonyte is a politician, economist but also former Chairperson of the Vilnius University Council. She gave a solid address about what unites European democracies and what separates them from authoritarian countries, focusing on the necessity of presenting a united front to the world to defend our shared values.

Democratic countries as part of a united puzzle

Mathias Vicherat, President of Sciences Po, greeted the Prime Minister, “We are very interested in your vision about Europe, about the war in Ukraine”. He added, “Prime Minister, we know that your government is placing priority on defending democracy and human rights. We share those with you”. 

Indeed, Ingrida Šimonyte explained that she sees the world as a “jigsaw puzzle”, composed of “bizarre pieces” that form one strong piece when assembled together. The underlying question is “how to solve the puzzle when the pieces are countries?”. Geography alone rarely unites countries, we’ve seen it time and time again. “What unites us is universal values and issues”, claimed the Prime Minister. That is why democracies condemn genocides, this is why we admire and root “for the bravery of people fighting for freedom”. It is only as we find common ground that “we can move to searching and finding common solutions”.

Authoritarian countries don’t play by the rules

Ingrida Šimonyte believes that “in a state of war between good and evil, agreeing to disagree is not possible”. Authoritarian countries like North Korea or Russia are, to her, whole different pieces of puzzle, from a different box. One of the favorite tools of autocrats is “to use our discourse”, calling our values of freedom “western lies”. The Prime Minister of Lithuania considers the Russia war in Ukraine as an “attempt to expand the Russian empire by the use of brutal force”. The twist is their ability to “show the independence of countries like manipulations from the western countries when they are the one actually trying to invade them”.

Another pattern of the autocrats’ behaviour is exploiting “any leverage : energy, investment, goods…” with the example of Russia’s current “blackmailing of Europe using the energy weapon”. Ingrida Šimonyte remembered that Russia did the same to Lithuania and criticised Russian media for “boasting that Russia will make Europe freeze this winter”. Authoritarian countries don’t care about “rules of law”, “human life” or their “international image”, it can result in “the kind of action that we cannot prepare for”. They’re a threat beyond their borders that can’t be ignored.

Clinging to each other to win the game

As a former Chairperson of the Vilnius University, the Lithuanian politician is convinced that teaching history to the young generations is the right way to fight the distortion of information used by Russia, that exploits “narrative about colonial western countries when in fact trying to revive the very same colonialism order”. Another improvement could also come from a better “strategic communication” to match the autocrats’ propaganda, although it is more difficult in countries that believe in freedom of speech. 

Above all, the solution will rise from solidarity between countries that “must cling to each other to resist the crisis”. Ingrida Šimonyte paid tribute to the way France showed its support to Ukraine through all actors: government, civic society and academic community, like Sciences Po’s. Lithuania is committed as well to help “as long as needed” because the country knows from its own experience of years of “bullying by Russia” that the authoritarian country won’t stop. Lithuania has rejoiced when seeing that the crisis in Ukraine has “rallied a democratic family of countries to defend themselves”. 

The value of human life cannot be compared to any currency” stated PSIA’s guest speaker. “The battle of democracy against autocracy won’t be won in days or weeks” but if democratic countries build relationships and unite, then “in the puzzle of the world politics, democracy will stand a better chance… and hopefully, autocracies will be less and less fitting into the puzzle”. 

MORE INFORMATION:

DOWNLOAD OUR BROCHURE

Sciences Po at 150

alt

Moving fluidly between past, present and future narratives, throughout 2022, Sciences Po draw on its history to look ahead to its future in a range of different formats and media.

Discover the 150 years website (FR).