Foreign Minister angers conservatives over compensation

  • 2008-01-16
  • By Laima Vaiga
VILNIUS - Foreign Minister, Petras Vaitiekunas, enraged conservative MPs when he urged Parliament to oppose a draft resolution which would force the government to take a stronger stance in demanding compensation from Russia for the 50-year Soviet occupation.
The minister argued that Lithuania needs to work with Russia, not antagonize it, because of Lithuania's dependence on Russian energy,  a situation which will only get worse in the near future. Vaitiekunas said that by year 2010, about 90 percent of Lithuania's energy will have to come from  Russia.
"Securing power resources after 2010 is a matter of national security. Under no circumstances should we provide the Russians with an excuse to be provoked," the foreign minister said.

Vaitiekunas had earlier raised the ire of conservatives when he suggested in a speech in Kaliningrad  last month that Russia was not the same thing as the Soviet Union and was therefore not responsible for the occupation. He later clarified his position by saying that though Russia was not guilty of the occupation but was still accountable as a successor state.
Lithuanian conservative MPs prepared the draft resolution, which was discussed in a Parliamentary committee on Jan. 11, that requires the government to adopt a damage recovery and strategy of action plan by March 15.
Conservative Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Audronius Azubalis, said that the draft  resolution would serve as a reminder that laws should be implemented, referring to a 2000 law, which required the government to start negotiations with Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union.
A survey on Lithuanians' attitudes on the issue, commissioned last December by the Foreign Ministry and conducted by Vilmorus pollster, revealed that Lithuanians want compensation both for the material destruction to the country and for the cruelty of the Soviet regime especially in the Stalinist era (moral compensation). A majority thought  that Russia should pay moral compensation first. The poll revealed that most Lithuanians do not believe that in reality Russia would actually pay, BNS reported on Jan 10.

President Valdas Adamkus has always maintained that Lithuania has not given up its demands that Russia acknowledges the Soviet occupation and compensates Lithuania. The president is still hopeful that there can be genuine dialogue with Russia based on common principles and values.
In Russia, Adamkus' views and those of Conservative MPs have been met with dismay and derision. Leonid Slutsky, a member of a State Duma's International Affairs Committee, said that Adamkus was "schizophrenic" as Russia does not recognize that an occupation ever took place
Nikolai Charitonov, another MP, said that the Baltic states should in fact be thankful to Russia for economically developing the region, the BBC Russian service reported.
Parliament has adopted a resolution urging Russia to negotiate with Lithuania's government. Russia has so far refused to talk to Lithuania about the subject.

Although most international agencies consider the 50 years of Soviet rule in Lithuania to be an occupation, some international human rights commentators think that Lithuania should drop the matter. Lyudmila Alekseyeva, founder of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest surviving human rights organization in Russia, claimed that although Lithuania has a legitimate claim it should consider good relations with its nearest neighbor the main priority, Delfi reported  Jan. 13.

Lithuania estimated its damages sustained during the Soviet occupation, including one-third of its population deported, killed, and forced  out of the country, at 23 billion euros (80 billion litas).