VILNIUS - After meeting the U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, DC last Friday, the three Baltic States’ presidents declared that there is, indeed, closer cooperation between the countries, reports ELTA. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said that a change in the U.S. foreign policy towards the Baltic States is visible.
President Grybauskaite met with President Obama to discuss ways of enhancing strategic cooperation, energy and cyber security issues, as well as transatlantic economic ties. They also exchanged views on relations with Eastern Partnership countries and Russia, geopolitical changes and processes posing a threat to the security of the region.
Taking part in the meeting were President Berzins of Latvia and President Ilves of Estonia.
It was underlined that the security of the United States and Europe was indivisible and that the United States had a profound and enduring interest in the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The Fact Sheet prepared by the United States on cooperation with Lithuania highlights the contribution made by Lithuania in addressing issues of critical importance to global security. Lithuania’s achievements in Smart Defense are underlined: Lithuania hosts NATO’s Energy Security Center of Excellence and Nuclear Security Center of Excellence, both of which are operating successfully; NATO’s Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States is supported and maintained on a permanent basis.
Lithuania’s participation in security and stability missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere is recognized and acknowledged at a professional level. The Fact Sheet accentuates ongoing cooperation in energy, trade, Eastern Partnership, global Internet policy, cyber security, education and research, as well as leadership exchange programs.
Not all were in such strong agreement. Political scientists interviewed by ELTA expressed skepticism, and said that these were pre-election statements coming from the politicians. According to some political analysts, U.S. foreign policy has been consistent, has not changed, and is not bound to change.
Associate Professor at Vilnius University Institute of International Relations and Political Science (TSPMI) Kestutis Girnius said that he was “skeptical [that the U.S. was drawing closer towards the Nordic and Baltic States].” According to him, such ties already exist, while special new ones are not noticeable.
Girnius said that as the Baltic States and Scandinavia are a part of the European Union, the relations are handled in part through the EU. In addition, the number of inhabitants in the Nordic and Baltic countries is rather small and their input into the global economy is too small for there to be a strategic reorientation by the Americans.
According to Girnius, Grybauskaite’s statements might have been caused by the enthusiasm of the visit to the White House, as it is quite rare that the U.S. President and Vice-President receive guests publicly.
Kaunas University of Technology Professor political scientist Algis Krupavicius said that the geopolitical turning point in the U.S. policy was hardly noticeable. On the contrary, its policy regarding the Baltic States is consistent and has been such for several decades. The relations between the countries are close as they are NATO members and deal with common collective security and defense issues.
The professor also noted that the political declaration about strategic cooperation demonstrated continuity, and not geopolitical alternation.
Krupavicius linked Grybauskaite’s statements with the upcoming presidential election next year. According to him, the president’s office is trying to place great significance on the visit, although it is not as exceptional as it might seem from the commentary.
The political scientist was also surprised that the president called the Baltic region a buffer zone between Europe and Russia, as there were no such propositions in the joint declaration of the Baltic State presidents - it merely mentions the necessity of cooperation between the Baltic and the Nordic countries. He said that such rhetoric comes from the Cold War and is inaccurate in today’s world.
In Washington, Grybauskaite said, “Cooperation between Lithuania and the United States in the past several years has been more successful than ever. The goals that were set by the Charter have been achieved. But today our people are facing new security challenges and we need new solutions. Therefore, Lithuania and the Baltic countries are entering a new stage of strategic cooperation with the United States.”
The United States wants to expand cooperation with the Baltic and Nordic countries, and this will help Lithuania in its pursuit of strategic goals, she said.
The United States supports Lithuania’s, Latvia’s and Estonia’s energy security goals and has declared its commitment to strengthening the energy security of the Baltic region. America has openly stated its support to the Third Energy Package implemented in Lithuania, energy interconnections with the West, as well as reliable and diverse supply of energy. The [U.S.] president said that the United States could also contribute to ensuring alternative energy resources by facilitating the issue of permits for the export of shale gas to NATO countries, including Lithuania. Natural gas is one-fourth the price in the United States compared to Europe.
President Grybauskaite and President Obama reviewed negotiations started during Lithuania’s EU Presidency between the European Union and the United States for the Transatlantic Trade Agreement - the world largest trade agreement that will create millions of jobs, boost investment and growth. And the two presidents discussed the situation in Syria, a source of serious concern for the international community. Grybauskaite underlined that the use of chemical weapons was unjustifiable.
Syria, agreed political scientists Girnius and Krupavicius, partly overshadowed the meeting, attracting major attention by the global media and politicians. Girnius said that the visit, nonetheless, had a symbolic meaning: it showed that every 4-5 years meetings take place, and disproves the notion that Obama does not show enough attention to Eastern Europe. The meeting also sent a signal to Russia that this is NATO territory, a part of the West.