Stressing morality at a morally defunct time

  • 2004-02-12
While he continues his political life as a member of Parliament, Landsbergis, a respected concert pianist and musicologist, is concentrating ever more on his artistic side. Landsbergis talked to Steven Paulikas during his party's annual conference about the country's current political crisis and his burgeoning career as a poet.

In your opinion, how will this scandal end?
We have no president. There already is no president who is capable of executing his duties and of being respected. Content is more important than titles. The post of president is a moral post-for a judge or a soldier to uphold his oath, there must be a leader who also upholds his oath. If the Constitutional Court has already issued a verdict that cannot be appealed and that says a constitutional oath was violated in exchange for money, then essentially we have no president.

Do you think there is concrete proof of Russian involvement in Lithuanian politics?
I would say that people who doubt that Russian secret services attempt to pursue their interests in Lithuania and influence events here have the mentality of kindergarteners. So they work all over the world, but not in Lithuania?
And Lithuania is particularly important [to Russia]. It interrupts Russia's sphere of influence by being between Belarus and Kaliningrad. Tens of millions [of dollars] could be paid to secure this influence. In fact, 10 million would be a very small price.

Why do you think a large portion of the population supports President Paksas?
They've been given an incorrect vision to aid their understanding of the situation-you're either for the president or you're against him. And this awakens an emotional reaction: "We need to support him because somebody's attacking him."
But actually, the situation is different. President Paksas isn't the source of the problems-he is a tool. On the one hand, this source is the people surrounding him, including Borisov and the people behind him, including Russian interests in Lithuania. On the other, most people in Lithuania are tired of a whole range of unanswered questions, half-truths, dirtiness.
An opportunity has arisen because of these factors to gain the sympathy of these people by promising to change everything. But people can tell when one promises to fight corruption with corruption.
But don't you notice that the question is asked in a personal way: the president is either good or bad. And this wins the sympathy of simple people-old women shed tears. I don't know if anyone would shed tears over the fight against corruption, but people don't understand this difference.

What does this say about the nature of democracy in Lithuania?
It means that it's not deep, that it is capable of being violated, that large masses of people can be shrewdly manipulated. And that something that isn't democratic can come in the name of democracy itself. We can just look at Russia and Belarus for examples of this process.

What do you think your Homeland Union party has to offer Lithuania during this scandal?
I hope that Homeland Union can bring moral measure in order to help people understand what others are really saying.

Some other parties have claimed that Homeland Union's reaction to the scandal was unmeasured, that Homeland Union used the scandal for its own purposes.
Homeland Union's reaction was, first of all, a moral reaction. A president who is this compromised can no longer be president. This reaction was not some political need to change democratic structures or to give Homeland Union more power-it was nothing of the sort.
People who view politics purely pragmatically will have a different view of these things, but this is a tactic. In this view, if [Parlia-mentary Chairman Arturas] Paulauskas has information of wrongdoing and makes it public, he does so only to get rid of the president. If [State Security Department Chief Mecys] Lau-rinkus decides to share sensitive information with the public, he's chosen a dangerous path, and not a peaceful life for the country. But in reality, he felt it was his civic duty to do what he did.
Do you think the Seimas [Lithunia's parliament] will vote to impeach Paksas?
There's no one answer to this question. We have information from unofficial sources that Paksas' lawyers cost 100,000 litas [29,000 euros] each. And politicians can also be bought...perhaps there are some Seimas members who can be bought too. Other Seimas members from rural districts are afraid of the reaction of their constituency if they vote "yes" to impeach. Although the voting is secret, psychological pressure and moral terrorism are completely possible.

Why have you decided to pay more attention to your literary career?
I've been writing for many years, and this is my second book of poetry. The first one was published in 1991.

So you're not abandoning politics?
Absolutely not. The Seimas elections are coming up, and there's much going on. The principle here is that I'm publishing writing that I once did only for myself, what I wrote in Soviet times and placed in a drawer. Literature has always been important for me. This book includes pieces from before as well as poems and prose fragments I have recently written. There's a lot I remember and want to write down to share with others.