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VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

  • 2004-01-29
If the manner of Antanas Valionis' message - divulging candid, private conversations to a throng of reporters - was surprising, then the content - that U.S. officials would like to see Paksas resign - wasn't in the least. Anyone who was surprised by what Lithuania's foreign minister said about his trip to America hasn't been paying close enough attention to what has been taking place in Vilnius over the past three months. Of course Washington would like to see Paksas resign; from the other side of the ocean, the Paksasgate scandal probably looks about as ugly as it is.

Presumably, for State Department officials and Congressmen who have been following the impeachment process in Lithuania, the strongest arguments for wanting to see a resignation stem from two points: that, as the ad hoc parliamentary commission found in its report released Dec. 1, Paksas is "vulnerable" to negative outside influences and therefore cannot serve as a guarantor of national security; and second, that the Constitutional Court ruled that the president had violated his oath of office (not to mention a slew of ethical norms) when he granted citizenship to his campaign financier, Yuri Borisov, a man who security forces say they had warned Paksas about.
No doubt there are other reasons too. Washington policymakers do not want to see Lithuania suffer for three years under a lame-duck president who, at the very best, has been compromised and had his integrity severely damaged. There are still numerous allegations that Paksas and his former administration officials have to answer to, from campaign skullduggery to interfering with state privatizations, and it would be safe to assume that more evidence coming to the public light will only further erode the president's tenuous hold on power.
A Lithuania in transition, Washington insiders most likely told Valionis, does not need a weak, embattled president, and therefore it would be best if Paksas resigns. There is nothing astonishing at all about this. It is just a shame that, instead of using this information in a more subtle, effective way, the foreign minister spread it in the media. Considering Paksas' relation to the press, the ultimate affect will be the opposite. Valionis should have considered this.