C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001076
STATE FOR EUR/NB EUR/UMB
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/06/2015
TAGS: KDEM PREL PGOV BO LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA TRIES TO EXPLAIN AWAY
REF: SECSTATE 185390
Classified By: CDA Tom Kelly for reasons (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary: Lithuanian Foreign Minister Valionis
accepted U.S. and EU Presidency criticism of recent
Lithuanian machinations regarding Belarus October 7. His top
policy deputy acknowledged that Lithuania was "damaged" by
the meeting earlier this week between the Lithuanian and
Belarusian Prime Ministers. At the same time, Valionis and
his team expressed dissatisfaction with current restrictions
against top-level contacts with the GOB. The MFA shared a
paper on its Belarusian policy that is part apologia, part
self-justification. End Summary.
Â¶2. (C) CDA presented reftel points in a joint demarche of
the Foreign Minister with the UK Ambassador and EU presidency
representative Colin Roberts. Valionis was accompanied by
Under Secretary Albinas Januska, the MFA's top policy
architect, and MFA Political Director and EU Policy chief
Zygimantas Paviolinis. CDA also complained about the MFA's
apparent misrepresentation of USG policy on Belarus, telling
third parties that the USG surreptitiously approved of its
interest in dialogue with the Lukashenko regime.
Â¶3. (C) Roberts, speaking on the EU's behalf, noted that the
October 4 dinner between Prime Ministers Brazauskas and
Sidorski violated the EU ban on ministerial contacts with the
GOB. He chided the GOL for its failure to consult EU
governments before proceeding with the meeting. He added
that other EU governments, including his own, may be
receptive to a discussion of the need to adjust tactics in
dealing with Belarus.
Â¶4. (C) Valionis and his colleagues accepted the reprimands,
albeit grudgingly. The FM expressed "regret for any
misunderstanding." Januska urged CDA and Roberts not to
raise the issue with Brazauskas, insisting that "we hear the
message." He accepted Roberts's advice that the GOL lay low
in the EU on Belarusian issues for a decent interval,
observing that "after this, we are damaged."
Â¶5. (C) At the same time, it was clear that the Foreign
Ministry still wants to engage the GOB at the highest level.
Noting the approach of next year's elections in Belarus,
Valionis said the GOL wanted to flood Belarus with foreign
observers. The Brazauskas-Sidorski dinner, he said, should
be seen in the context of Lithuania's attempt to prevent
Lukashenko from having a pretext to keep Western observers
out. Valionis also claimed that Sidorski himself was a
possible source of intra-regime opposition to Lukashenko.
Â¶6. (C) Valionis noted that GOB FM Martynov is occasionally
in Vilnius to visit his resident son. Valionis said that he
anticipated that his Belarusian counterpart will seek an
"informal" meeting. Both Roberts and CDA responded that this
would be a bad idea and another violation of the common
U.S.-EU approach to Belarus.
Â¶7. (C) Valionis provided a "secret" MFA paper providing the
GOL's explanation for the Brazauskas-Sidorski encounter.
While the paper's authors express regret that "there was not
enough time to properly inform partners," they portray the
event as a spur-of-the-moment decision by PM Brazauskas,
which compelled the MFA to join in. (Vice Minister Petrauskas
and Januska attended the dinner for the MFA.) The authors
argue that contact with Lukashenko is imperative because "all
decisions are taken by Lukashenko himself" and that GOL-GOB
contacts will intensify the likelihood of information sharing
and defections by key GOB officials. The full text of the
paper follows at the end of this cable.
Â¶8. (C) Comment: Business and ideological considerations
motivate the Prime Minister and his fellow Social Democrats
to pursue detente with Lukashenko. The MFA, once a redoubt
of opposition to that approach, is at risk of becoming
Brazauskas's enabler. We hope that the unpleasantness of the
joint USG/UK message will make the GOL think twice about
further high-level contacts with the GOB. Regrettably, the
MFA paper's defiant tone suggests that our message needs
reinforcing at every U.S. meeting with GOL interlocutors,
especially at the MFA and with Brazauskas himself.
Â¶9. (SBU) Begin text of MFA non-paper:
ON THE VISIT TO VILNIUS BY BELARUSSIAN PRIME MINISTER
1) Contacts with Lukashenko
We thought that under certain circumstances there might be a
necessity to make contact with Lukashenko. After consulting
US and UK Presidency we came to the conclusion that at this
moment such contact would not be advisable and productive.
However, we do not preclude that such necessity could arise
in the future. It is necessary to underline the specificity
of the situation where all decisions are taken by Lukashenko
himself. Therefore contacts with other officials cannot
replace the contact with Lukashenko.
2) Visit by Belarus Prime Minister
Belarusian exhibition BELEXPO was planned well before.
Openings of similar exhibitions during previous years was
attended by Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus. During the
unscheduled visit of the Prime Minister of Belarus Lithuanian
Prime Minister decided to invite him for a private dinner.
Lithuanian MFA decided to be present at the dinner.
3) Isolation vs. engagement
We need to be more engaged in the developments in Belarus.
This is becoming even more obvious in the light of
forthcoming election. It is to be expected that Lukashenko
may deliberately seek to escalate the conflict with the West
in order to be freer to deliver expected results of the
elections (and referendum) and prevent observers from coming.
By meeting Belarusian Prime Minister we intended to not to
give any pretext for further escalation of the alleged
hostility by Lithuania and ipso facto by the West towards
Belarus. We regret that there was not enough time to
properly inform the partners.
4) Specific location
Due to geographical proximity between Minsk and Vilnius
(170km), an increasing number of Belarus nationals, in
particular those related to the opposition, visit Vilnius.
They come for meetings, training, seminars and other events.
At the same time, these people show more and more interest to
settle in Vilnius on a permanent basis. Belarus nationals
often acquire real estate, look for jobs, and move their
families to Lithuania. Lithuania never intended to create
barriers for this.
Members of Belarus authorities are also increasingly part to
the same phenomenon. Few examples: 1) Head of National
Security Council G. Nevyglas spends a bigger part of his
weekend time in Vilnius meeting different people and hanging
around in clubs and restaurants; being President of Belarus
Football Federation he is particularly active in football
related circles; 2) Belarus Minister for Foreign Affairs
confidently approached Lithuanian authorities asking job
authorization for his son. Similar requests have been
received from a number of other high-ranking officials,
including from MFA. Lukashenko's son once indicated his
intention to visit Vilnius as well.
Those Belarusians wish to keep everything on the private
business level and remain in disguise. In these
circumstances we cannot avoid contact with these people.
This is a very specific situation which creates particular
difficulties for Lithuania. We think that the recent visit
by Belarus Prime Minister could be related to all these
issues. We do not know whether this phenomenon is known to
Lukashenko. We know that some cases of "veiled" resettlement
to Vilnius is recorded by Belarus KGB.
5) Search for refuge
In addition, Lithuanian authorities have been approached by
some Belarus officials who are in position to disclose the
crimes committed by the present regime. These officials are
high-ranking, therefore the information might be credible and
substantial. Their only condition is a guarantee of physical
and material security for them and their families which
should be provided by Western countries. Lithuania cannot
guarantee that. Therefore she has made contact with several
EU and NATO members on this matter, however, has not received
any response. Of course, we cannot exclude that some of the
approaches were provocations.
All in all, Vilnius is becoming a specific place of different
type of activity for a big number of Belarus nationals. A
similar situation might be in Latvia and Poland.
Â¶10. (U) End text of MFA paper.