Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1121

05VILNIUS11212005-10-19 14:46:00 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 001121 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/18/2015 
Classified By: Ambassador Stephen D. Mull for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 ¶1.  (C) Mr. Secretary, you will arrive in Lithuania this 
weekend with our relations with this small but steadfast ally 
at their best level yet.  Lithuania supports and participates 
in every major U.S. foreign policy initiative.  Its 
Provincial Reconstruction Team in Chagcharan, Afghanistan -- 
which President Adamkus and I visited last week -- has made 
important strides in ensuring the area's stability and 
beginning reconstruction efforts, with extensive U.S. 
support.  Lithuania's successive governments have expressed 
an unwavering and open-ended commitment to our common effort 
in Iraq, pledging to keep its 100  troops there as long as 
necessary.  We have close and tight cooperation with 
Lithuania's security forces in fighting the war on terror. 
Within the EU, Lithuania has been a stalwart advocate for 
stronger transatlantic ties and NATO's primacy in European 
security.  In its immediate neighborhood, Lithuania has been 
an energetic supporter of President Bush's freedom agenda, 
from its warm hospitality to Belarus's embattled democrats to 
its high intensity mentoring of the militaries and 
governments in Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan. 
¶2. (U) We have already planted the seeds for this close 
relationship to grow in future generations.  For example, 
Lithuania has 10 students currently enrolled in the four U.S. 
service academies and 11 alumni -- one of the highest per 
capita representations in the world. 
¶3. (C) On a personal level, President Adamkus is especially 
eager to renew your acquaintance, which he said he began 
politicking with you in freezing Chicago weather during your 
1962 campaign for Congress.  Adamkus is an especially strong 
asset to our bilateral relationship, intervening at key 
points in Lithuania's internal politics to keep its pro-U.S. 
foreign policy agenda on track.  Thank you especially for 
making time on your schedule to see Prime Minister Algirdas 
Brazauskas, who has been a more skeptical partner in 
supporting Lithuania's growing international military 
commitments.  Your meeting will undoubtedly shore up his 
support and enthusiasm for our military cooperation. 
¶4.  (C) While our relationship is exceptionally smooth and 
warm, I wanted to alert you to a number of issues that may 
arise during the bilateral portion of your visit here: 
The recent crash of an errant Russian SU-27 onto Lithuanian 
territory ignited a furious internal debate here about the 
adequacy of Lithuania's air defense.  Taunts from senior 
Russian officials questioning NATO's value during the episode 
only intensified the reaction, which included a formal 
parliamentary instruction to press for making NATO's interim 
air policing of the Baltics permanent.  Senior defense 
officials have seized on the incident to mount a campaign for 
increased defense spending -- in particular, an extra $7 
million to fund a major upgrade of Lithuania's air radar 
system.  During his visit to Lithuania last week, Congressman 
Jim Kolbe instructed his staff to begin exploring whether the 
U.S. might be able to help in this area.  You can be certain 
your interlocutors will seek your support for this effort in 
your meetings. 
We here at the U.S. Mission have pressed the Lithuanian 
government to increase defense spending from its current 
level of 1.27% of GDP to bring it in line with the 2% NATO 
standard.  The government is trying to heed the call -- its 
draft 2006 budget proposes upping absolute defense spending 
by 10.5%, but Lithuania's booming GDP growth of 6-7% per 
annum means defense spending as a share of GDP will increase 
only to 1.4%.  Your support for Lithuania's continuing 
efforts to up that figure, particularly in your meeting with 
the Prime Minister, would be welcome. 
With significant U.S. support, Lithuania's 113 troops on the 
ground in Ghor province are doing a terrific job.  Our 
request that Lithuania assume sustainment costs when the 
U.S.-funded contract expires on March 31 has prompted some 
Lithuanian apprehension about their ability to pay the bill. 
The Lithuanians are exploring whether to revise their 
proposed use of Coalition Solidarity Funds to cover the 
costs, and may ask you whether there is any possibility of 
continued U.S. support with the burden. 
Virtually no senior American visitor comes to Lithuania 
without getting a question on when Lithuanians will be able 
to travel to the United States without visas.  President Bush 
earlier this year announced a "Visa Waiver Program Roadmap" 
for our central and eastern European allies to help them 
improve their eligibility for visa-free travel.  Lithuania is 
an active participant in the program, and we work intensively 
with the government here in a public diplomacy campaign to 
reduce the number of illegal Lithuanian workers and overstays 
in the United States -- the principal reason for Lithuania's 
Lithuania has been active far beyond its size in providing 
support for democratization in Belarus, and it takes its 
responsibility as the NATO contact embassy in Minsk 
seriously.  But economic interests often collude to pressure 
the government to circumvent the ban on contacts with senior 
Belarusian officials.  Recently, Prime Minister Brazauskas 
defied an EU ban on senior level contacts by hosting the 
Belarusian Prime Minister to dinner to discuss bilateral 
economic issues.  If you have the opportunity during the 
Brazauskas meeting, I would encourage you to remind him of 
the importance of maintaining a united democratic front on 
keeping pressure on the Lukashenko regime. 
¶5.  (U) Mr. Secretary, thank you for adding Lithuania to your 
busy schedule.  We eagerly look forward to supporting your 
Steve Mull