Lithuania, a small Baltic country with a population of only 3.5 million, is often regarded as an insignificant small country on the international stage. But recently it has challenged the giants: to reject China on the Taiwan issue. Looking back at history, Lithuania was also at the forefront of nuclear confrontation among superpowers.
Lithuania used to have a large number of nuclear bombs, enough to destroy all European cities and small cities. At the time, it was still part of the Soviet Union. The geographical location gives Lithuania an important strategic value: it is close to Western Europe and faces Scandinavia.
After Lithuania became fully independent in 1991, it was surprisingly found that it was just a small country with a population of approximately 3.5 million, which was of little importance on the international stage.
Recently, however, Lithuania has challenged the giants: resisting China on the Taiwan issue and refusing to compromise; supporting dissidents in neighboring Belarus, Belarus has been accused of widespread human rights violations.
BBC reporter Sadakat Kadri visited the historical relics of a small village in Lithuania and found that the country’s past has important implications for the present.
The following is the “Reporter Lai Hong” written by him for the current affairs section of BBC News:
Any veritable fairy tale attraction may bring surprises to people, and there are many such places hidden in the forests of western Lithuania. But when I went there not long ago, I found that not all the attractions are beautiful and charming.
There are ticks in the grass, and many of these blood-sucking worms are found in many places in Europe. I quickly realized that I must pack my hands and feet tightly. However, what attracted me to this place is actually the hidden military facilities there. They must have a dark magic.
The hillsides around Prokstin are densely lined with trees, and deep underground, there were once secret nuclear bomb silos.
When it was built, this location must have looked quite ideal. The Soviet missiles deployed there have a range of 2,000 kilometers, which means that most of the NATO countries in Europe are within the range.
It was 1961, three years before I was born in London. London is only 1,600 kilometers away. In other words, Prokstin and I will also have a close relationship personally.
The damp and dark underground buildings seem to make people feel ghastly everywhere, but the most terrifying thing is the silo itself. They look like wishing wells, but they still exude ominous signs.
Each silo used to store a 25-meter-long rocket. The warhead carried by each rocket was more than half of all the ammunition used in World War II, including the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.
The rocket was launched from the ground and lifted into the pine forest. Within ten minutes, a single warhead could razor my birthplace–or any other city within range–to the ground.
Humans escaped the “doomsday war.” After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Lithuania broke away from Moscow’s control and joined NATO 17 years ago.
Although Prokstin still reminds people of the past, the relationship between Lithuania and the Kremlin is not friendly now, just like recovering from a painful divorce. Recently, the Lithuanian government rarely talks with the Kremlin.
Although many Lithuanians still speak Russian, my Moscow-born tour guide would instinctively pause before deciding which language to use when speaking to strangers.
She explained, “The older generation can usually communicate in Russian, but the new generation in Lithuania will definitely choose English.”
I met a man in his 30s in a bar, and he explained what I saw from different angles. He raised a glass of beer as if to confirm his statement, and then smiled and said, “I am not aggressive, but Moscow still pretends to be a symbol of friendship for half a century of occupation. Now Putin has invaded Crimea again. Although I am only a technician, after that (invasion), I joined the Civil Defense Volunteer Army.”
However, the small country Lithuania does not just fight against a strong neighbor, they also provide refuge for Lukashenko’s opponents. Lukashenko is the autocratic president of Belarus, the southern neighbor of Lithuania, and he vigorously swept pro-democracy demonstrations last year;
Recently, the Lithuanian government minister refused to compromise on the Taiwan issue, which made China extremely angry.
However, even very unequal fights can get out of control. Looking back, Prokstin’s early history shows that the conflict may worsen severely, and the rate of increase is unpredictable.
At the beginning of 1962, just a few months after the opening of the Plocstin base, 250 soldiers were sent to Cuba. Within a month, another nearly identical launch base was built, with six rockets facing the United States. The subsequent confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union was called the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the end, the crisis ended after the United States and the Soviet Union retreated.
However, the beginning of the crisis is not a far-sighted operation. According to the leader of the former Soviet Union Khrushchev, the purpose of deploying nuclear weapons to Cuba is only to “put a hedgehog in the crotch of Uncle Sam.”
Although the Cold War has ended and the Soviet Union has long since become history, Khrushchev’s strategy still exists.
In order to prove its fearlessness in the Kremlin, Lithuania holds spectacular NATO exercises every year; in order to demonstrate its fearlessness, Russia has also organized the largest military deployment in Europe in 40 years.
Whether it is fearless or fearless, anyway, it seems that there are many hedgehogs large and small.
The afternoon I was leaving Proxtine on my bike, I had a nap in a lakeside café. Silver clouds swept across the blue sky, and a single sail sailed across the sparkling lake. Everything in front of me was peaceful and serene, but the “doomsday image” kept flashing in my mind.
If someone really pressed the red button, NATO would certainly not launch a preemptive nuclear attack to destroy this base. The lake in front of me should have vaporized in an instant, and the surrounding forest and sand for several miles melted into a large glass dish.
I tucked my jeans feet into my socks, let out a long sigh of relief, and then turned my attention to a less thrilling danger in front of me.
It is wise to prevent ticks from crawling into my trouser legs. It is not so wise to put a hedgehog in the crotch of others.