• 2000-03-16
Some historians think March 11, 1990, when Lithuania's Parliament declared independence from the USSR, was the beginning of the end of the Soviet empire.

Many political analysts say if not for Lithuania, the Soviet Union and the Cold War would still exist. Thus, Lithuania may have saved the West billions of dollars. Did Lithuania get something for it? Perhaps some Marshall plan like America gave Western Europe after World War II?

No. But Lithuania is on the threshold of membership in NATO and the European Union, which guarantees the country's security and welfare.

Ten years ago the West was not excited about Lithuania's independence, despite the fact that the West never officially recognized its incorporation into the Soviet Union. The West was more concerned with games of diplomacy than with the fate of tiny Lithuania.

Only Iceland and Denmark gave recognition in early 1991 when the Soviet Union still seemed to be a superpower.

March 11, 1990, also paved the way for the democratization of Russia and the independence of Estonia and Latvia. The other Baltics had more difficult internal situations and proclaimed transitional independence in 1990, brought to reality only after Communism collapsed in Moscow itself in August, 1991.

The West's attitude toward Lithuania is completely different today. Vytautas Landsbergis was guest of honor at the 10th anniversary celebrations in Washington's Capitol building.

For many people in the world, Landsbergis is associated with March 11, but it would be naive to say that independence was achieved by him alone, as some of his most devoted worshipers claim. Independence was achieved by the whole nation.

Landsbergis was a leader of the national movement in the late 1980s for which he deserves praise.

But recently he has been looking for enemies of NATO membership among Lithuanian politicians. He even spoke about it on March 11 in the Lithuanian Parliament.

The truth is that there is not a single major party in Lithuania that would be against NATO membership. It is not necessary to use such rhetoric for election propaganda.

March 19 will see municipal elections. Parliamentary elections will follow in the fall. Surveys show that Landsbergis' Conservatives might lose. People blame them for the country's economic hardships.

Don't worry, Landsbergis, Lithuania will be pro-NATO and pro-EU whatever the results of the upcoming polls. Not only Conservatives feel a responsibility for the country.