Grybauskaite rejects Obama's invitation

  • 2010-04-07
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

EUROPEAN LADY: Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite at the European Council of March 25. Grybauskaite enjoys being in the crowd of the EU leaders, but she would prefer to talk to U.S. President Barack Obama face-to-face.

VILNIUS - On April 8, U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev will sign a new arms reduction treaty in Prague. President Obama invited the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania, as well as the prime ministers of Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia to attend a dinner with him in Prague on the same day. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was the only invited president who refused to meet with Obama. On April 1, the Fool’s Day, she decided to send Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius to the Prague meeting instead.

The usual translation, from diplomatic language into the plain one: this means showing the middle finger to Obama. The question “why?” remains an unanswered mystery and puzzlement to political observers. The answer is probably as follows: she feels insulted for Obama’s lack of enthusiasm to meet face-to-face with her and has no will to be just one of some dozen Eastern European apostles at the Lord’s Supper.

For almost a week, Grybauskaite’s office refused comment on this strange diplomatic gesture. Kubilius seemed to be lost as well. “There is nothing to comment on,” Kubilius said during his press conference on the same Fool’s Day, when he was asked to decipher this castling, if putting it into chess terms. He looked obviously lost and surprised by Grybauskaite’s extravaganza.

Kestutis Girnius, political analyst and former correspondent of the U.S.-sponsored Radio Liberty, stated that such a gesture could be understood by Washington as unfriendly.
“It raises a question: does Lithuania possess its own foreign policy? Or does it just silently surrender to the line of the European Union. Is it related to speculation that Grybauskaite is preparing for her further career in the highest EU posts? Finally, what is that EU line and what will we get in exchange?” rhetorically asked Monika Garbaciauskaite, editor-in-chief of the Web site

Political analyst Raimundas Lopata said that Grybauskaite’s step is not understandable for “a sane brain.” He added that this diplomatic demarche was done “just a couple of weeks” after Grybauskaite wrote a letter to Obama, where she asked for a meeting in the White House and described the United States as “the closest ally” of Lithuania.
“It seems that Grybauskaite’s ambitions are over the top. Due to the lack of invitation to the White House, she probably decided that Obama’s wish to meet in Prague means humiliation for her,” political analyst Marius Laurinavicius wrote in the daily Lietuvos Rytas.

On April 6, Linas Balsys, spokesman for Grybauskaite, finally gave his official version of such president’s step. “The majority of the region’s leaders who will participate there will be prime ministers. It is natural that Lithuania will be represented by the prime minister,” Balsys said. The invitation was sent to Grybauskaite. According to Egidijus Vareikis, MP of the ruling Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats and member of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, diplomatic protocol is as follows: the invited person should go to the meeting. Latvia’s and Estonia’s presidents will go to the meeting in Prague.