Behave yourself

  • 2001-07-19
It would be a disaster for Lithuania if Conservative Party head and independence movement legend Vytautas Landsbergis continued to use the sort of barrage of bad mouthing against his old political rival Algirdas Brazauskas that characterized the political scene throughout the 1990s.

Landsbergis is acting like Brazauskas' comeback is a great opportunity to launch his own political renaissance.

Any political opposition is obliged to criticize. But Landsbergis as a critic has become pure hysteria. He is the epitome of Central and Eastern European nationalist paranoia.

He makes the prediction that the courts will not be punishing criminals during Brazauskas' period as prime minister. He makes broad-brush statements, the most recent of which was made last week: "Drug dealers will not be prosecuted."

Why? No further explanation was given to this particular outburst. No journalists asked him; they simply did not take it seriously.

In Lithuania, where the political system is more mature than many other countries in the region, what do the courts have to do with the government anyway? They are separate institutions, a basic tenet of constitutional ABC, according to most Lithuanians.

Landsbergis is trying to kick those old, uncivilized duels between Landsbergists and Brazauskists back into life. But every angry remark from Landsbergis causes another slump in his popularity. As if it could fall any further.

Landsbergis deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for his activities in 1989-1991. He did more for Lithuanian independence and the collapse of communism in the region than Brazauskas.

He should have stopped there. In the last few years in particular he has been suffering from a severe case of Napoleon syndrome. His limited number of increasingly hardcore but rapidly aging fans are beginning to throw the label of "agent from Moscow" on just about anybody who refuses to worship his personality.

Such accusations, especially when they are regurgitated through the Western media, are beneficial to nobody except those in the Kremlin, if you believe - as many people do - that it is in Russia's interests to give the Baltics a bad name.

They are especially foolhardy now, as Lithuania is becoming widely considered to be the best prepared country for NATO membership among those nations interested in the next wave of membership.

Ironically, some Lithuanians are beginning to think that the only figure in the Lithuanian establishment who could possibly be described as an agent of Moscow is Landsbergis himself.

It would be too much to blame pro-Landsbergis fanatics for the train derailment near Kaunas, which TBT reported on last week and which some Lithuanian politicians said could have been a "terrorist act." However, the fact that many politicians, starting with Liberal MP Eugenijus Gentvilas, who was acting prime minister until Brazauskas took the post, and ending with Social Democrat Nikolaj Medvedev, have such suspicions says a lot.

Landsbergis should watch what he says. Who knows what sort of extreme right-wing lunatics could be encouraged by his accusations.

It's time for the Conservatives to become a political party open to inner party discussions. It's time to replace Landsbergis with Andrius Kubilius, who is of a Western mold, solid, and not so hysterical.