VILNIUS 's Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. diplomat, said that Valdas Adamkus' dilemma whether to go to Moscow for the May 9 celebrations is symptomatic of a disturbing trend in Russian behavior toward the Baltics that is becoming increasingly challenging for U.S. diplomacy.
As Holbrooke wrote in an article published in the Washington Post on Wednesday, "Valdas Adamkus has a problem. The 79-year-old president of Lithuania has been invited 's personally, persistently, even threateningly 's by Russian President Vladimir Putin to an event that he really, really doesn't think he should attend: the May 9 celebrations in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Adolf Hitler. It's a real A-list affair: President Bush, Tony Blair, Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder, Silvio Berlusconi, the presidents of other former Soviet republics, and a cast of thousands."
But as a Lithuanian, Adamkus does not regard May 9, 1945, as a day of liberation.
"Most Lithuanians, proud of their central role in breaking up the Soviet Union in 1991, agree. But Putin seems almost desperate to have all the former Soviet republics honor Russia on May 9; he has even used his most potent threat, hinting that if Adamkus does not go, it could affect Russia's shipments of oil and gas," Holbrooke wrote.
"Of course, as U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Steve Mull has said, it does not matter to the United States whether Adamkus attends. What makes this more than a social problem is that it is symptomatic of a disturbing trend in Russian behavior toward the area where the Soviet Union once reigned supreme. And it poses to the Bush administration a dilemma far greater than the one Adamkus faces."
In the former diplomat's words, the productive relations of the West with Russia are "endangered by events over the past year that the West can no longer ignore." "Putin is rattled by the growing independence of some of the former Soviet republics, most notably Georgia and Ukraine. But his inept meddling, which failed to prevent democratic popular uprisings last year in both countries, has only weakened him," Holbrooke wrote.
The former envoy to Yugoslavia had strong words for President George W. Bush. "The administration must reevaluate its Russian relationship. Ignoring Putin's behavior would make a mockery of Bush's inaugural rhetoric about freedom and democracy. But it will not be easy to restructure a relationship that has been so personal to two powerful and self-confident leaders," he wrote.
"Is Washington's romantic period with Moscow truly over? The first test comes next week, when Bush and Putin meet in Bratislava, Slovakia. Then, of course, there is that anniversary party on May 9, which Putin would like to expand into a NATO-Russia summit the next day -- an unthinkable event under present circumstances."