Fearing the recent Democratic take over of the U.S. Congress on Nov. 13 conservative Lithuanian politicians from the Homeland Union party claimed that the result would amount to less America, and hence more Russia, in Europe. It would behoove Baltic politicians to remember that even if it was the Republican party in the United States that yelled the loudest during the Cold War about Baltic independence, it has been the U.S. government, coincidentally led by Democratic administrations, that has put the rubber to the road in getting the Baltic states to where they are today.
During the Clinton years, the Partnership for Peace program was established, which laid the foundation for the Baltics' eventual membership in NATO (the fruit of which will be shown in full colors by this month's NATO summit in Riga). The Clinton administration's Russia policy went to great lengths to keep the powers of reform in the Kremlin, and this in turn gave the Baltic states the precious time they needed to carry out desperately needed reforms for eventual EU and NATO membership. Perhaps more importantly, the Clinton White House prevented Ukraine and Kazakhstan from becoming nuclear powers by default. How easily many forget this accomplishment.
In addition, the Bush administration has ignored the congressional Democrats' critizism of Russia joining the WTO, which is looking set to happen next week. It also pays to mention that there has never been a leader of the Democratic party who has claimed to have "looked into Putin's eyes and got a sense of his soul."
Perhaps a greater danger for the Baltic states would have been a continuation of the status quo. An expansionist U.S. government, unable to admit its policy flaws and unchecked by an opposition, could have continued "business as usual" and attacked Iran. With the actions of the Bush administration having successfully divided energy-starved Europe into "old" and "new," it would not help the strength of NATO if the United States was bogged down trying to cope with both Iraq and Iran. The changes in Washington should be welcomed in the Baltic capitals and will most likely mean a further strengthening of Europe and the U.S.A., not the other way around.