Viewing cable 04VILNIUS1556

04VILNIUS15562004-12-23 10:58:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001556 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2014 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Russia has launched a "charm offensive" 
towards the Baltic states that features new movement on 
bilateral relations, according to Lithuanian officials and 
Baltic diplomats here.  Lithuanian interlocutors point to 
recent Russian initiatives on long-stalled issues such as 
bilateral commissions and on non-security issues like 
environmental protection. Russian diplomats are privately 
telling Baltic interlocutors that the new year will bring 
even friendlier initiatives.  Lithuanians, however, see a 
continued Russian hard line against Baltic/EU efforts to 
"export" democracy to other parts of the former Soviet Union. 
 Many observers believe the friendlier tone reflects Russia's 
interest in attracting Baltic participation in WWII 
commemorative events in May; others believe it is a new 
tactic aimed at co-opting the Balts for support on Russian 
interests within NATO and EU councils.  Regardless of motive, 
the Lithuanians will probably aim to exploit new initiatives 
to maintain constructive relations with Russia, while remain 
cautious and alert to any encroaching Russian influence that 
could be a by-product. End Summary. 
A Kinder, Gentler Moscow? 
¶2. (C) MFA Russia Division Chief Arunas Vinciunas 
characterized Russia's recent overtures toward Lithuania as a 
"charm offensive," and told us that Lithuania has noticed a 
more cooperative tone from Moscow on issues of bilateral 
interest.  Russia recently announced, for example, that it 
would appoint a chairperson to the GOL-GOR Intergovernmental 
Cooperative Commission, following a six-month vacancy.  The 
Commission, the highest GOL-GOR permanent cooperative body, 
facilitates cooperation on bilateral issues, involving trade, 
transportation, economic cooperation, science, technology and 
culture.  Russia similarly pledged to name a chair to the 
bilateral Demarcation Commission, a technical body 
responsible for delineating the Kaliningrad-Lithuanian 
border, and the GOR recently affirmed its intention to 
participate in a joint Baltic Sea and Curonian Lagoon 
environmental monitoring program in 2005. 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
Moscow Extends Holiday Cheer toward Estonia and Latvia 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
¶3. (C) A local Estonian diplomat told us that Tallinn has 
also noticed a "dramatic shift" in tone from Russia.  After 
many months of a refusal to meet at the Foreign Ministerial 
level, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov had recently offered a 
meeting to his Estonian counterpart.  President Putin, for 
example, also recently announced his intention to conclude 
negotiation of border treaties with Estonia and Latvia by May 
9, 2005.  (Note:  The Duma ratified the GOL-GOR agreement 
codifying the Russia/Kaliningrad-Lithuanian border in May 
2003.)  The diplomat said Russian diplomats in Vilnius have 
been telling the Lithuanians and Baltic counterparts to 
expect substantial new goodwill initiatives shortly after the 
new year. 
"Nothing Charming About Russia in Brussels" 
¶4. (C) Despite the new bonhomie on other issues, Russia has 
changed neither its tone nor its policies on the New 
Neighborhood or other substantive issues with the EU, or with 
Lithuania on issues such as Baltic air policing or 
Kaliningrad, according to Lithuanian diplomats.  Mindaugas 
Kacerauskis, head of MFA's Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus 
Division noted that Russia remains "very tough" on Georgia, 
Moldova and Ukraine.  Russia, he said, rejected all 
EU-sponsored initiatives regarding the "New Neighborhood" at 
both the November EU-Russia Summit and the OSCE Ministerial 
in Sofia.  Noting "there has been nothing charming about 
Russia in Brussels," Jonas Grinevicius, head of MFA's NATO 
Division, said that he was "not impressed" with Russia's 
cooperation on Ukraine at the recent NATO-Russia Council. 
Interlocutors point to Putin's involvement with President 
Kuchma following the second round of presidential voting in 
Ukraine, and FM Ivanov's critical comments on Kaliningrad 
transit issues at NATO's meeting in Bucharest as additional 
evidence that there has been no change in tone or substance 
from Moscow. 
A May 9 Motive? 
¶5. (C) The goal of the Kremlin's offensive, said Grinevicius, 
is to convince President Adamkus to participate in events 
commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII in 
Moscow on May 9.  To Lithuanians, May 9, the official Soviet 
Victory Day, signaled the reestablishment of soviet 
occupation and deportation of up to 300,000 Lithuanian 
citizens, thousands of executions and 45 years of the 
subjugation of its language and culture by a foreign occupier 
(reftel).  Raimundas Lopata, Director of the Institute of 
International Relations, echoed Grinevicius, suggesting that 
these examples of uncustomary, if limited cooperation 
represent a new strategy directed toward May 9 participation, 
not a new warmth. 
¶6. (C) Though President Adamkus has told us quietly that it 
will likely be politically impossible for him to participate 
in events that appear to mark the anniversary of Soviet 
occupation of the Baltic countries, the GOL will likely not 
make a final decision until March 2005.  Saulius Gasiunas, 
Director of MOD's NATO Department said that the GOL is taking 
a wait-and-see approach, and will see just how far these 
friendly overtures extend. 
¶7. (C) Others believe the new developments reflect a change 
in Russian tactics in advancing its longer term strategy of 
co-opting or weakening NATO and EU influence on Russian 
interests in Europe.  Many of our Baltic interlocutors here 
remain convinced that Russia continues to view its relations 
with Europe as a zero-sum game; that any expansion of NATO or 
EU influence automatically means a diminution of (and threat 
to) Russian interests.  As one Estonian surmised, Russia aims 
to use its warmer cultivation of the Baltic states as a 
platform to weaken NATO and EU cohesion. 
¶8. (C) Regardless or Russia's motives or the durability of 
its new initiatives to the Baltic states, Lithuanian 
officials will likely aim to exploit them to keep bilateral 
relations on a constructive footing, while remaining cautious 
and alert to any ulterior motives.  As Lithuania's new 
government takes power with the participation of Labor Party 
leader (and ethnic Russian) Viktor Uspaskich, sensitivity to 
prospective Russian manipulation of Lithuania is especially 
high.  For example, even Uspaskich himself this week sounded 
the alarm about the need to protect Lithuania from Russian