VILNIUS - The leader of the parliamentary opposition and one of the nation's most renowned academics engaged in a verbal scuffle this week over what the MP referred to as efforts "to revise fundamental Lithuanian foreign policy provisions."
Andrius Kubilius, leader of the right-wing Homeland Union, told a press conference on March 6 that he was "shocked" by a proposal from two political scientists, Raimundas Lopata and Ceslovas Laurinavicius, to refrain from reminding Russia about the occupation
"Lithuania's relations with current Putin's Russia should be based on its interests and its nation's concept of honor and self-respect, not looking at how the present Social Democratic governments of the Czech Republic and Hungary act," he said, referring to the Russian president's visit to the two countries last week. While in Budapest, Vladimir Putin stated he was sorry and felt "moral responsibility" for the 1956 and 1968 events, when the Soviet army put down democratic rebellions in Hungary and the then Czechoslovakia.
Kubilius suggested the political scientists had acted "not only on their own initiative" and were given the nod by the Foreign Ministry.
"There is no doubt that the shocking proposals are not only political scientists' free and independent opinion. Such steps are just a beginning, a public relations action obviously implementing a capitulation revision act prepared by the Foreign Ministry," the MP said.
Both Lopata and Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis rejected the speculation.
"Parliament passed a law demanding to seek compensation from Russia for the Soviet occupation damage back in 2000. The government's and the Foreign Ministry's function is to implement laws, and the Foreign Ministry is doing that. Any attempt to see the Foreign Ministry's 'hand' or manipulations is nonsense," Valionis told the Baltic News Service.
Lopata, who is director of the Institute of International Relations and Political Science of Vilnius University, struck back by saying that "it seems that politicians have forgotten that we live in a democratic society, where there is a free, well-balanced and responsible opinion of scientists."
As the academic explained, "Furthermore, the Institute of International Relations and Political Science is a part of Vilnius University. The principles of its activity are different from those followed by Moscow State Institute of International Relations, which is a departmental part of the Russian Foreign Ministry."
Lopata and Laurinavicius suggested that Lithuania should have considered acting when Russia, by apologizing to former socialist bloc countries for the Soviet Union's wrongdoings, was improving relations with these countries, while at the same time trying to isolate the Baltic states and Poland from the rest of Europe.
After the discussion as to whether Lithuania should demand compensation for the Soviet occupation, political scientists will organize a lecture on the issue.
The lecture, "Why Compensation for the Occupation Damage Should Not be Demanded," will be delivered by Laurinavicius at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science on March 22.
The law, which charges the government with negotiating with Russia over damage compensation, is formally effective in Lithuania but has not yet been implemented. A study has estimated the damage at 80 billion litas (23 billion euros).