Discussing the Russia issue

  • 2010-02-10
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On Feb. 5, Lithuanian politicians, diplomats and political experts gathered at the conference named “Lithuanian eastern politics: Do we have our vision?” which was held in the premises of the Lithuanian parliament. The Lithuanian official rhetoric never was as soft towards the Kremlin as it is now, when the Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats and President Dalia Grybauskaite took power. This is why the conference attracted some interest. The conference showed that the Lithuanian elite preserved its sober view on Russia.

Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuanian member of the European Parliament, in his speech rejected the idea that Lithuania could be some bridge between the East and the West. He spoke in favor of Lithuania being a firm part of the West. Landsbergis said that Russia suffers from the post-colonial syndrome.

“Russia lives in the period of post-colonialism and it causes psychological problems for that country. Recently, a British politician said that the Brits only now start to understand how good it is to live without having colonies - there were quite enough problems in those colonies. While Britain became a normal European state, Russia is far away from such self-understanding because it understands the loss of colonies as a tragedy,” Landsbergis said.

Landsbergis spoke positively about Lithuania’s action during a meeting of the European Union countries’ foreign ministers in Luxembourg in April 2008. Then, despite the position of the other 26 foreign ministers of EU member states, Lithuania refused to approve a mandate under which the European Commission could begin talks on a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Russia. Lithuania’s objections dealt with Russia’s closure of the pipeline supplying Lithuania’s only oil refinery, the Kremlin’s attitude towards judicial and international cooperation regarding Soviet crimes (the USSR’s aggression against Lithuania in January 1991, and the Soviet-organized massacre in the Lithuanian border post of Medininkai in July 1991) and current crimes against Lithuanian citizens in Russia, and Russia’s treatment of Georgia and Moldova. The Lithuanian delegation in Luxembourg was led by then Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas of the Social Democrat-led Lithuanian government. Later, Lithuania withdrew its objection to the start of negotiations with Russia after reassurances that those issues would be raised by the EU in talks with Russia. The EU-Russia negotiations started in July, 2008 and are still pending.

“During negotiations over this agreement, Lithuania’s position should not be passive. Recently, it was passive,” said Audronius Azubalis, who will officially become Lithuania’s foreign minister after giving an oath in the parliament on Feb. 11. He said that Lithuania’s interest should be the prevalence of democracy in the post-Soviet countries because democratic states are more predictable.

Parliament Speaker Irena Degutiene said that Lithuania can strengthen its position versus Russia via EU institutions.
“Half of the EU member states had some conflict with Russia. Their rhetoric towards Russia was very different. The style of Lithuania’s rhetoric is not important. The softening of rhetoric will not help,” political analyst Zivile Dambrauskaite said.