THE PEAK OF GOOD RELATIONS: On Sept. 8, 1992, in Moscow, Lithuanian Defense Minister Audrius Butkevicius (left) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev signed a Lithuanian-Russian agreement on the final withdrawal of Russian troops, requiring them to be out of Lithuania by Aug. 31, 1993. *
VILNIUS - Last week, Russia’s president invited Estonian and Latvian presidents to watch the Russian military parade in Red Square in Moscow, on May 9. The Lithuanian president did not receive such an invitation and will go to Ireland on May 9. The Kremlin’s invitations to celebrate the end of WWII are very controversial in the Baltics due to the fact that the end of WWII did not bring freedom to the Balts. However, Lithuania got something better than the controversial invitation, which would be considered by a large part of Lithuanians as an insult rather than politeness - Lithuania received signals about Moscow’s will to warm up relations with Vilnius.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in his letter congratulated Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on the approaching 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of Lithuanian independence on March 11, 1990, though just a couple of weeks ago, the spokesman from the Russian Foreign Ministry, contradicting the texts of basic Lithuanian-Russian documents on establishing diplomatic relations in the early 1990s, stated that there was no independent Lithuania in January 1991. Then the Russian Foreign Ministry was answering to demands from Lithuanian MPs to compensate for the victims of Soviet aggression on Lithuania in January 1991. In his letter, Medvedev also invited Grybauskaite to visit Russia at a time convenient to her.
“I am grateful for the invitation to the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the re-establishment of independence of the Republic of Lithuania. I would like to extend my congratulations on this anniversary and to wish you and the people of Lithuania every success,” Medvedev wrote in his letter. Medvedev also reminded in his letter his meeting with Grybauskaite during the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall.
“It is with warmth that I recall our short and fruitful conversation in Berlin. I hope to meet you in the near future and I invite you to visit the Russian Federation at a time convenient for you. I believe that we will be able to discuss a whole range of issues which are topical for Lithuanian-Russian relations and project the ways making our bilateral cooperation more dynamic,” Medvedev wrote.
Grybauskaite, visiting the Vilnius Book Fair on Feb. 18, commented on Medvedev’s letter. “Such a thawing of relations is beneficial to both sides. A bilateral meeting is more valuable than visits to anniversaries,” Grybauskaite said. Lithuanian and Russian presidents have had no meetings since 2001. Grybauskaite also expressed her satisfaction with Moscow’s correctness regarding May 9.
“The Russian side behaves very correctly. They don’t put us into a position in which we would have difficulty to respond,” Grybauskaite said.
This year, Russia will celebrate the 65th anniversary of its victory in WWII. Five years ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited all three Baltic presidents to watch the Russian military parade on May 9, when Russia celebrated the 60th anniversary. In 2005, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and Estonian President Arnold Ruutel decided not to go, while Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga went to Moscow. Before making such a decision, Adamkus initiated public discussion with the intention to make up his mind regarding the controversial trip. Then the majority of opinions were not in favor of going to Moscow. During WWII, Lithuania was the one and only country among those Nazi-occupied countries where the Germans wanted to create SS troops out of locals and failed to do so because their campaign of recruitment was boycotted by Lithuanians.
Many Lithuanian pro-independence intellectuals chose to become prisoners of German concentration camps instead of agitating, as the Germans wanted, in favor of joining the SS troops. In 1944, the USSR, not paying attention to international laws regarding occupied territories, took by force hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians to serve in the Red Army. Many of them chose to escape to Lithuanian forests, which added fuel to the anti-Soviet guerilla war. Therefore, Lithuanians have no complex of being guilty of fighting with the Nazi troops against Russian troops in WWII.
Not everybody is happy with the fact that the Lithuanian president is not going to celebrate in Red Square. Bronislovas Lubys, influential president of the Lithuanian Industrialists’ Confederation, said that Vilnius’ ‘originality’ in this case harms Lithuanian economic interests. Such a situation causes for Lithuania more expensive Russian gas and oil supplies than for the rest of Europe, according to Lubys. According to information in the daily Lietuvos Zinios, Latvian President Valdis Zatlers and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves will go to watch the parade in Moscow’s Red Square. This year, Moscow is, for the first time, decorated with huge billboards portraying Stalin as the savior of Russia.
* Standing from left to right: Lithuanian Parliament President Vytautas Landsbergis, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Russian Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov. According to this treaty, the Russian troops left Lithuania one year earlier than they left Germany, Poland, Latvia and Estonia. The year of 1992 was the climax of good relations between Vilnius and Moscow.