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A poll by the Lithuanian pollster Vilmorus which results were presented at a conference organised by the Civil Society Institute (CSI) reveals a worrying fact – only a mere 14 percent of respondents said that, in case of aggression, they would defend the country with a gun.
«It is very sad and disappointing. In the face of a war here, many people estimate their readiness to defend the state more realistically. Although the poll does not say how our young people would act under such dire circumstances, my gut feeling is that particularly many in the youth category would leave the country. That 22 percent would rather flee than stay here in case of invasion is also a staggering number to me. It seems to me that swaths of our society may be spoiled by the good life we have here in peace,» Vytautas Dumbliauskas, associate professor of Mykolas Romeris University, told BNN.
Gediminas Grina, former director of Lithuania’s State Security Department, pointed to BNN that the poll results suggest him that economic factor is the most important to the vast majority of citizens.
«But to me, everything boils down to a relatively low number of people participating in an election.
It hovers around 50 percent, meaning that, as citizens, we are less involved in the governance and in the civil society and furthermore – we care less who is in power and so on,»
he accentuated to BNN.
«Citing political correctness, many prefer not to speak about that, but the trend – of being disinterested with politics – is picking pace and is worrying,» Grina said.
Presenting the results at the CSI conference, Ainė Ramonaitė, professor of Vilnius University’s Institute of International Relations and Political Sciences (VU TSPMI), pointed out that it is not the first time citizens have been asked about the will of Lithuanian society to defend their country, but the difference becomes apparent when asked about the war in Ukraine and during peace.
Most, 36 percent, answered that they would defend Lithuania in other ways than with weapons; 15 percent would stay away, 14 percent would defend the country with a gun.
Notably, 13 percent respondents said that in such a case they would leave Lithuania and 22 percent said they do not know how they would behave if Lithuania were attacked by another country.
According to her, it is difficult to reflect on the meaning of the numbers. Yet she noted that the numbers were similar in other similar surveys.
«This time, we also asked the question a little more delicately: if Lithuania were to be attacked by another country, would you defend Lithuania with a weapon, defend it in other ways, stay away or leave Lithuania?» Ramonaitė told Delfi.lt
When answering such a question, every fourth said he or she did not know how he or she would act in such a case.
«Here we can already compare, because the wording is exactly the same as in the previous surveys. Here we can see that uncertainty has increased. The number of those who do not know is almost 25 percent. It is large, but what is interesting that it was large in 2014-2015 too, when the Crimea was occupied. So somehow, in those situations when people see a real military threat, they apparently think more realistically and the percentage of ignorance increases,» the scholar suggested.
Meanwhile, the percentage of those who would start doing something amid military menace to Lithuania remains quite similar, she pointed out.
Speaking about the composition of citizens, the scientist explained that many of their answers are determined by objective criteria, i.e. age and gender. The most determined to defend Lithuania with a weapon or in other ways are men aged 18 to 59.
«Here is such a natural distribution. We see the situation in Ukraine…Another thing is age: older people probably also assess their situation soberly enough and say that they would stay away,» A. Ramonaitė said.
But speaking to BNN, Laurynas Kasčiūnas, chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence, a member of the ruling Homeland Union, downplayed the poll results, emphasising that a very important number – of those who would defend the country otherwise – was largely omitted by many commentators.
«Notably, 36 percent said they would defend otherwise, providing medical, civil and other kinds of aid. Let’s not underestimate that. This is very important, and the example of Ukraine shows that,»
the high-ranking Lithuanian parliamentarian pointed out.
In his words, those 14 percent who said are ready to defend with a gun translate into nearly 400 thousand people on ground.
«If we manage to integrate them into our defence structures, we will have a huge boost to our defence capabilities,» Kasčiūnas underlined.
«Even in Ukraine, only around 5-10 percent of the population fight with guns, while many others contribute to the defence by providing civil defence – all the necessary services. So in a word, the poll numbers are far from being bad,» the MP underlined.
Asked if Lithuania has done enough to ramp up its defence following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kasčiūnas replied that, among the biggest achievements, is the strengthening of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union (Lietuvos šaulių sąjunga), also referred to as Šauliai, a paramilitary non-profit organisation.
«The new financing it received is substantial. We are establishing its new training centre. We are about to start setting commandant’s offices in the country. In case of threat, they would provide support to the other defence structures. Looking ahead, we certainly need to engage our population more actively in defence. Participating in resistance courses sounds like a necessary thing to me,» the MP told BNN.
The Vilmorus poll was conducted from the 11th of October till 16th of October, 2022.
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