Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1057

05VILNIUS10572005-10-04 07:04:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
¶1. Congressman Kolbe, thanks to you and your colleagues for 
traveling to Lithuania.  Your visit here will provide an 
opportunity to show gratitude to Lithuania for its staunch 
and unwavering support in the U.S.-led Global War on 
Terror, including its decision to establish and lead a 
Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chagcharan, Afghanistan, 
and to commend its leadership in promoting democratic 
initiatives in the region.  Planned meetings with President 
Adamkus and Speaker of Parliament Paulauskas will afford 
you the chance to celebrate and strengthen the already 
exceptionally friendly bilateral relations the United 
States shares with Lithuania. 
Lithuanian History in Brief 
¶2. The rich culture of Lithuania goes back more than two 
thousand years.  Lithuanians are a branch of the Balts, who 
probably settled in the region around 200 B.C.  Lithuanian 
is one of the oldest languages in Europe.  The first 
written mention of Lithuania was in the Annales 
Quedlinburgenses in 1009 A.D. 
¶3. The Grand Duke Mindaugas established the first 
Lithuanian state in 1230.  He converted to Christianity 
briefly and was crowned king of Lithuania in 1252.  The 
Grand Duke Gediminas, who reigned from 1316 to 1341, is 
credited with founding Vilnius, at the confluence of the 
Neris and Vilnia rivers, and a dynasty that united 
Lithuania and Poland from 1386 until 1795. 
¶4. Lithuania progressively entered European culture.  At 
the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom 
was formally merged into a commonwealth headed by a 
monarch.  This union came under threat from Prussia, 
Austria, and Russia at the end of the 18th century.  In 
1795, Russia annexed most of Lithuania and tried to impose 
Russian culture. 
¶5. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania regained its 
independence and restored its statehood.  Lithuania 
remained free for only 22 years.  In 1940, the Soviet Union 
occupied Lithuania; Nazi Germany overran the country the 
following year; and the Soviets returned in 1944.  Armed 
resistance against the Soviets continued for several years 
after the end of World War II.  For more than 50 years 
under the Soviets, Lithuanians held onto the goal of 
¶6. In February 1990, the anti-Communist popular movement 
Sajudis won an overwhelming majority in free parliamentary 
elections.  That March, the Supreme Council, under the 
leadership of Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, restored 
Lithuania's independence.  Lithuania became a member of the 
United Nations on September 17, 1991.  The last Soviet 
soldier left in August 1993.  In April 2004, Lithuania 
joined NATO.  In May 2004, Lithuania became a member of the 
European Union. 
¶7. Rapid economic growth and development characterize 
Lithuania's trajectory from Soviet occupation to a maturing 
democracy and free-market economy.  Politically, Lithuania 
strives to deepen the transatlantic alliance and present 
itself as an active participant in international political 
fora.  Our coalition partner in Iraq, ally in the United 
Nations and NATO, and a leading exporter of democracy in a 
difficult neighborhood, Lithuania has risen to donor status 
farther afield in Iraq and Sudan.  Lithuania's footprint 
goes far beyond what one would expect from a country of 
such small size (population 3.5 million) and with such a 
short time on the field.  On the home front, Lithuania last 
year weathered a turbulent presidential impeachment that 
put the young democracy under international scrutiny. 
Closely adhering to transparent democratic principles and 
procedures, Lithuania returned a centrist, unifying figure 
to the presidency. 
Growing Pains of a Maturing Democracy 
¶8. Lithuania inaugurated Valdas Adamkus on July 12, 2004 as 
its fourth president since the restoration of independence 
in 1991.  Adamkus, a former American citizen, previously 
served as president from 1997 to 2002, when he lost his bid 
for reelection to populist Rolandas Paksas.  Adamkus 
regained the presidency following Paksas' impeachment and 
removal from office in April 2004 in proceedings that 
rocked the nation and tested the democratic institutions of 
the young republic.  Lithuania thereby obtained the dubious 
distinction of being the only European democracy to have 
removed its head of state.  The process was bumpy, but 
largely transparent and democratic.  In the aftermath of 
the impeachment, Lithuania played out a highly charged 
contest for the presidency that pitted the centrist Adamkus 
against a candidate whose populist agenda promoted 
increased social spending, reconsideration of Lithuania's 
participation in Iraq, and, most notably, decreased U.S. 
influence in Europe.  Adamkus cast his victory in this 
contest as confirmation of a foreign policy agenda that 
highlights the importance of the U.S. presence in Lithuania 
and Europe. 
¶9. Lithuanian voters widely supported the country's 
entrance into the European Union and NATO in 2004.  These 
memberships were the first steps in Lithuania's long-term 
political strategy that envisions a leadership role in OSCE 
and ECOSOC, membership in OECD, and active participation in 
NATO and the EU. 
Growing Economy 
¶10. Lithuania is one of the fastest growing economies in 
Europe.  The country's robust economic growth continues, 
having slowed from 9.7 percent GDP growth in 2003 to a 
still enviable 6.7 percent increase in 2004.  Analysts 
forecast annual average real GDP growth of 6.5 percent in 
2005 and 6 percent in 2006.  Domestic demand will continue 
to drive economic growth, as households benefit from wage 
increases, falling unemployment, and low interest rates. 
Lithuania looks to attract foreign investment to sustain 
long-term growth, which complements our own objective of 
attracting more U.S. investment to this dynamic economy. 
The U.S. runs a trade deficit with Lithuania, with imports 
exceeding U.S. exports by about USD 144 million in 2004. 
¶11. Uncertainty surrounds the future of the Lithuania's 
Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) oil refinery, currently under 
management of the major shareholder Yukos.  MN accounts for 
two percent of GDP and is one of the largest employers in 
the country.  All of the leading candidates to purchase the 
refinery have ties to Russian energy companies.  Continued 
economic growth depends to a large extent on the ability of 
the oil refinery, terminal, and pipeline complex to 
maintain stable supplies of oil. 
An Enemy of Lithuania is an Enemy of the U.S. 
¶12. Common values, a history of mutual support, and common 
goals for regional security bind Lithuania and the United 
States.  Lithuania continues to recognize a debt of 
gratitude to the United States for having maintained a 
policy of non-recognition of Baltic annexation throughout 
the years of Soviet occupation.  Following the restoration 
of Lithuania's independence, the U.S. cemented the 
friendship, providing political and financial support to 
Lithuania, welcoming the country into the transatlantic 
alliance, and supporting Lithuanian membership in NATO and 
the European Union. 
¶13. Lithuania is a reliable transatlantic partner and a 
strong advocate of NATO's central role in ensuring security 
in the Euro-Atlantic area.  As a new member of NATO, 
Lithuania has politically and materially supported the 
alliance's international missions.  Lithuania currently has 
boots on the ground in Afghanistan in support of ISAF, and 
is leading a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chagcharan 
in Afghanistan's remote Ghowr province.  In Iraq, 
Lithuanian soldiers serving under Danish and Polish command 
conduct patrols, assist in maintaining public order, and 
are involved with rebuilding and reconstruction efforts. 
British, Danish, and Polish commanders have all commended 
Lithuanian soldiers' skills and professionalism.  The 
Lithuanian Parliament has already authorized these 
international deployments through the end of 2007. 
Lithuanian soldiers have also performed admirably as 
peacekeepers in the Balkans and in 2006 will begin serving 
with Polish and Ukrainian personnel in a joint peacekeeping 
battalion in Kosovo. 
A Friend to the U.S. in Time of Need 
¶14. Lithuania offered more than 8,000 food rations, ten 
water pumps, and medical supplies to victims of Hurricane 
Katrina.  (Ultimately, FEMA decided that the assistance was 
not required.) The Lithuanian Red Cross raised more than 
$14,000 in private donations; one elderly woman donated her 
entire life savings to the relief effort in gratitude for 
U.S. support for Lithuania. 
Lithuania Active in the "Near Abroad" 
¶15. Lithuania's accession to the European Union and NATO 
opened new opportunities for the GOL to engage with its 
neighbors to the east, most notably in the context of the 
EU's "New Neighborhood" policy.  Leveraging its historical 
experience as part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania seeks to 
assist the transition by former Soviet states to democracy 
and integration into European institutions such as the EU 
and NATO.  In Belarus, Lithuanian governmental and non- 
governmental organizations work with nascent democratic 
forces both bilaterally and through regional frameworks 
such as e-PINE.  President Adamkus was instrumental in 
mediating the election crisis in Ukraine, and Lithuania is 
one of the most vocal advocates for Ukraine's bid to become 
a member of the EU and NATO.  Lithuania supports Moldova's 
aspiration to join the EU and encourages the countries of 
the South Caucasus to pursue European integration. 
Lithuanian-Russian Relations 
¶16. Lithuania works hard to maintain good relations with 
Russia.  Mutual interests in transit, energy, and security 
issues attract high-level attention in both Vilnius and 
Moscow.  GOL and GOR leaders periodically convene an 
intergovernmental council to discuss concerns.  The 
September 15 incursion and crash of a Russian SU-27 
fighter-bomber in Lithuania's territory has recently tested 
Lithuanian-Russian relations.  Despite public expressions 
of pique from officials and politicians in both capitals, 
however, both governments maintain the episode will not 
have a lasting impact on bilateral relations.  (The armed 
aircraft was part of a six-jet convoy traveling from St. 
Petersburg to Kaliningrad when it apparently experienced 
navigational problems, ran out of fuel, and crashed 90 
miles west of Vilnius.  The Russian pilot, who safely 
ejected, is currently under house arrest and undergoing 
questioning by Lithuanian authorities.)  The issue has 
refocused public attention on the role and importance of 
NATO's Baltic air-policing mission for the region. 
American F-16s assumed command of this mission October 1, 
and will be here until the end of the year.  Polish 
fighters will relieve our forces here on January 1, 2006. 
The Special Lithuanian-U.S. Relationship 
¶17. Starting in the 19th century, a flood of Lithuanians 
fled poverty and oppression in their homeland and 
immigrated to the United States.  These longstanding ties 
of family and culture remain strong.  After World War II, 
Lithuanians received decisive moral support from the United 
States, which refused to recognize the Soviet annexation of 
Lithuania.  After regaining their independence, Lithuanians 
have continued to view our country more favorably that most 
Western Europeans.  This reflects longstanding goodwill 
toward the United States as well as the widely held view 
that the United States presents the only credible defense 
against recrudescent domination from the east. 
Preview of Your Visit 
¶18. I'll host a country-team briefing at the beginning of 
your stay, and a reception in your honor featuring 
Lithuania's best and brightest.  We have also arranged 
briefings for you with two of the most important 
beneficiaries of U.S. assistance, the Minister of Defense 
and Director of the State Security Service (the Lithuanian 
equivalent of the FBI).  To give you a sense of conditions 
in the neighboring country of Belarus, we are working with 
IRI and NDI to bring you together with prominent members of 
the Belarusian opposition.  Finally, we are working to 
confirm meetings for you with the President and the Speaker 
of Parliament.  All of us here at Embassy Vilnius very much 
look forward to your visit.  We'll see you on Monday!