Talking foreign politics

  • 2011-10-26
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

NORTHWARDS: Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, speaking in the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes, reiterated the main goal of Lithuanian foreign policy: deepening integration with Baltic and Scandinavian countries.

VILNIUS - History can be an instrument for current foreign policy. It was demonstrated during the conference on history titled “The epoch of the House of Vasa in the Lithuanian Grand Duchy.” The Swedish-origin Vasa dynasty ruled the Republic of Both Nations (the commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania) from 1588-1668. It was a pretext for Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis to state at this conference, which was held in the Palace of Lithuanian Grand Dukes in Vilnius on Oct. 19, that the north-oriented foreign policy for Lithuania has strong historical roots.

At the same time, Azubalis did not reject the policy of former Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, who took great interest in the democratization of former territories of the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, i.e. Belarus and Ukraine. President Dalia Grybauskaite, after her victory in the presidential election in 2009, made suggestions that such a policy by her predecessor gave no benefits for Lithuania, but it seems that now Adamkus’ policy is not radically rejected.

“Just like in the Vasa period, the foreign policies in the North and in the East are directly interdependent, and key political interests of the Baltic, Nordic and Central European countries coincide. The revived historic Nordic partnership presents a great opportunity for Lithuania to even more effectively promote democratic processes and build well-being in our neighboring Eastern European countries,” Azubalis said.

On Oct. 14, Vytautas Landsbergis, member of the European Parliament and a still rather influential member of Lithuania’s ruling Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, spoke more about Lithuanian foreign policies when he was presenting his new book “In the European Parliament VII” in Vilnius’ historic house-museum on Pilies Street 26, where the declaration on re-establishment of independence of Lithuania was signed back in 1918. Landsbergis said that the main battle between the EU and Russia will be fought over Ukraine.

Russia is pressuring Ukraine to join the customs union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, which would mean Ukraine’s refusal of its strategy to join the EU in a long-term perspective. “Europe told Ukraine – if you join that customs union, then forget about it [forget about integration with the EU],” Landsbergis said. He also stated that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych “shoots his own foot” by jailing his political opponent Yulia Tymoshenko. The European Commission cancelled the recently planned visit of Yanukovych to Brussels, due to the seven-year imprisonment of Tymoshenko.
Landsbergis described Russia as a weak state. “Planes are falling there every day. Everything is rusted and obsolete,” he said. He stated that the next war in the world can be started either by Iran (against Israel), or by Russia, which can attack Georgia or provoke an Armenian-Azeri conflict and act on the side of Armenia – such a Russian chauvinism-boosting war would help the Kremlin leaders to keep their power in Russia.

Landsbergis also spoke against the intensions of some European politicians to create a two-speed Europe within the EU, dividing Europe into the eurozone’s EU and non-eurozone EU. Landsbergis said that Lithuania, due to its austerity measures (he mentioned Lithuania’s planned state budget for 2012 with a deficit of just 2.8 percent), is “somewhat similar” to the Nordic countries and Lithuania does not cause such headaches for the EU as does Greece. He said that the state spending in Greece was ridiculous in the past. Landsbergis said that he has information (though he could not guarantee its absolute accuracy) that unmarried Greek women after the age of 25 were receiving a special state allowance – Landsbergis guessed that this allowance was invented with the intention of helping these women to buy more jewelry for self-promotion, which would help them to find a husband.

Landsbergis rejected accusations towards Grybauskaite that she justifies the regime of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus. “I didn’t notice that she defends Lukashenko. She just said the old phrase, which is the phrase of the European Union: the boycott, the isolation and the break up of relations with Belarus would be unproductive – it would only push it to the opposite side,” Landsbergis said. He was obviously having in mind Russia as that “opposite side.”

Lithuania is also against the total isolation of Belarus and the strong condemnation of Ukraine, due to pressure from the representatives of the Lithuanian business community, such as Bronislovas Lubys, the president of the Lithuanian Industrialists Confederation and the second richest businessman in the Baltic States, according to data from the Lithuanian magazine IQ Economist. Lubys, who died on Oct. 23 at the age of 73, did not have decisive influence on political decision-making in Lithuania - for example, Lubys failed to convince the Lithuanian government to build an LNG terminal together with his company, and he was planning to build his own LNG terminal in addition to the Lithuanian state-constructed LNG terminal.

The Lithuanian politicians do not want to push Belarus and Ukraine into the hands of Russia. This is why Lithuania continues to speak in favor of the EU’s association agreement with Ukraine, as well as the free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine, while Brussels is somewhat skeptical about it due to the jail sentence to Tymoshenko. Grybauskaite still did not revoke her planned visit to Kiev to meet Yanukovych in November, though Brussels now is not very supportive of such official contacts with the president of Ukraine.