VILNIUS - The Baltic states' ambition to help democratize other former republics of the Soviet Union underwent its greatest test last week as Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus arrived in Ukraine to take part in mediation efforts during a political conflict that could split one of Europe's largest countries.
Adamkus, along with Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and EU foreign policy envoy Javier Solana, was invited by Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma in an attempt to help pro-Western opposition and the pro-Russian prime minister come to terms.
Mediation talks lasted three-and-a-half hours on Nov. 26 and resulted in a joint declaration that bound the two sides in finding a peaceful solution, creating a task force that would address specific problems and providing for the transparent discussion of each presidential candidate's complaints.
Then, when the standoff in Kiev reached another impasse on Nov. 30, Adamkus was again asked to fly to the Ukrainian capital to help break the deadlock.
Adamkus left for Kiev on Dec. 1.
For Lithuania, which has not been shy about its goal to share its NATO and EU-accession experiences with other East European countries, participation in the crisis negotiations alongside such heavyweights as Russia, the EU and Poland was both an honor and a test.
Prior to his departure for Kiev, Adamkus told journalists that he regarded the invitation "as elevating Lithuania to a new international level and recognition." Upon his return from the first trip, he was explicit in who should get the credit for the joint declaration.
"After the first statements I though it would be a failure. The most credit should be given to President Kwasniewski," Adamkus told Lithuanian national radio the next day.
In his words, the mission's greatest success was that the two candidates - Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko - were brought to the negotiating table.
Lithuania has in recent years been a strategic partner of Ukraine's, and President Kuchma's visit to Vilnius in 2002 took place against a heady backdrop of big promises and strengthening relations. Lithuanian and Polish politicians have repeatedly promised their Ukrainian colleagues to lobby interests in the European Union.