Foreign Minister to be softer on Russia

  • 2008-11-26
  • By TBT staff

Usackas said getting reparations from Russia was unfeasable

VILNIUS - The leading candidate for foreign minister, Vygaudas Usackas, has suggested Lithuania shouldn't irritate Russia for compensation of damages brought about by occupation, adding that compensation isn't currently feasible.
Vilniaus Diena newspaper reported that the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrat (HU-LCD) Party program is to be firm on relations with Russia. Usackas, however, takes a more moderate approach, arguing the program's emphasis should be on creating a competitive economy and dealing with the challenges to national security.

"Both these issues are tightly connected with our relations with Russia. We need to sit down and seek out answers to these questions," he said.
"It is important to develop constructive but principled relations with Russia, we must invoke the truth, justice and those historic issues, which are of importance to us. On the other hand, Russia is our important trade partner and with whom we must maintain constructive cooperation," Usackas added.

Political analysts in Lithuania have criticized his moderate approach saying that it won't work with Russia.
"It is a mistake because of changing tactics 's this is against the conservative doctrine. With our experience with Russia, when you step back it seems you are demonstrating a weakness," Raimundas Lopata, head of Vilnius University International Relations Institute told The Baltic Times.
"The ball is in the hands of Moscow and we will lose the game," he added, referring to all issues relating to Russia including energy supply and defense.

Usackas doesn't see his approach as contradictory to the HU-LCD program, which states the need for the dialogue with Russia to be "open, yet of principle, unpolished and based on democratic values, not sacrificing them for questionable 'pragmatic' interests."
"We cannot change Russia. We can work together with the EU and with it we can exert influence on Russia's actions. On the other hand, it is important to seek out specific projects on how to cooperate with Russia at the same time not resigning our values," he said.
Leonidas Donskis, head of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Vytautas Magnus University, said Lithuania needs to align itself with Europe.

"We need a more balanced approach to Russia, but it could send the wrong message [to back down]," he said.
"Lithuania should align itself to EU parties 's sometimes we have our own policies for Russia and don't consult our EU partners. We shouldn't stay quiet, but we should harmonize with the EU," he added.
Usackas doesn't believe damages could be compensated at this time.
"We need to distinguish that which we aim for, and that which is currently feasibly attainable. I think it much more important at this time to expand a group of like-minded individuals in Russia, work with the young, future generation of Russian leaders and help them realize that bitter historical truth," Usackas said.

"I opt against vexing [them], but I'm not saying this issue should be completely forgotten," he added.
Donskis said that Russia has shown indifference to the Baltics for years with no visits from top Russian officials.
"No Russian president after Yeltsin has visited the Baltics and this shows in their relations with us. We do not have the same relations as other large Western nations," he said.
The HU-LCD is asking for occupation damages equal to the amount that they say the country lost during the Soviet occupation between 1940 and 1990.

Lithuania has calculated the damages caused by the Soviet occupation at 80 billion litas (23.2 billion euros).