Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1287
Title: AMBASSADOR COUNTERS ATTACKS ON LITHUANIA'S NGO

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS12872005-12-08 13:53:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 SECRET Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 001287 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SECSTATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/PPD, INR/EUC, AND EUR/OHI 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/07/2015 
TAGS: PGOV ECON KPAO KNAR LH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR COUNTERS ATTACKS ON LITHUANIA'S NGO 
COMMUNITY 
 
REF: VILNIUS 1223 
 
Classified By: PAO ANTHONY PAHIGIAN FOR REASON 1(b) 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
¶1. (C) Respublika Group media outlets and Lithuanian 
politicians continue to attack legitimate non-governmental 
organizations (NGOs) in a seemingly coordinated campaign that 
began November 8 (reftel).  Ambassador Mull, responding 
publicly to an inquiry from the Labor Party, defended USG 
support for NGOs in Lithuania.  He also censured the ruling 
coalition's call for investigation of civil society 
organizations in Lithuania.  Several observers believe that 
the campaign's architects emphasize the role of George Soros 
in NGO financing because they expect it will keep  the USG 
silent.  One high-level Foreign Ministry official noted that 
political parties "who get Russian money are the most active 
in this affair."  We are encouraging leaders in the 
Lithuanian and international community to reject this 
dangerous campaign.  End Summary. 
 
PRESSING THE ATTACK 
------------------- 
 
¶2. (SBU) Respublika Group's media attacks on civil society 
NGOs and George Soros have continued unabated since November 
¶8.  The attacks began with a series on Soros depicting him as 
a billionaire meddler with CIA ties who wants to undermine 
political stability through manipulation of civil society. 
The papers then began to tar with the same brush President 
Adamkus and NGO leaders who have been involved with or funded 
by Soros's Open Society Fund.  (Tomkus is best known for his 
series of anti-Semitic and homophobic articles in his 
flagship daily Respublika in 2004, which begat international 
condemnation and higher sales.) 
 
¶3. (U) Over the last three weeks, several political parties 
have begun to pile on.  Members from each of the four parties 
in the governing coalition (Labor, Social Democrats, 
Peasant/New Democracy, and New Union) and the populist 
Liberal Democrats requested that the Special Investigative 
Service (STT) and the Lithuanian intelligence apparatus 
investigate Soros's and the NGOs' activities in Lithuania. 
STT Director Malakauskas declined, dismissing the charges as 
politically motivated and unworthy of his agency's attention. 
 The Labor Party sent a letter to Ambassador Mull asking for 
USG "confirmation" of NGO connivance against the Lithuanian 
state, and told the press that it was awaiting our response. 
 
 
AMBASSADOR DEFENDS CIVIL SOCIETY 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶4. (U)  The Ambassador responded to Labor's public request 
with a letter, released simultaneously to the press, that 
emphasized: 
 
-- the central role that civil society institutions play in 
developing Lithuania's young democracy; 
-- that our support for civil society supports those who 
fight corruption, promote good governance, an independent 
media, and active civil society; and 
-- the need to promote civil society, not attack it. 
 
¶5. (U) Ambassador Mull also used the occasion of a December 7 
Human Rights Day commemoration to present, in front of the 
media, a robust defense of the important role of NGOs in 
promoting tolerance, free speech, transparency, and civil 
society.  Seimas Vice Chairman Gintaras Steponavicius, a 
prominent member of the Liberal-Center opposition party, 
appeared alongside the Ambassador on the panel to express his 
own staunch support of civil society organizations in 
Lithuania. 
 
POPULISTS RESPOND TO AMBASSADOR 
------------------------------- 
 
¶6. (U) Most major media published the Ambassador's letter 
with little additional commentary.  Respublika Group papers 
were the predictable exception.  Respublika ran a page two 
headline entitled "U.S. Ambassador Conceals Support Given in 
Lithuania." The accompanying article stated that the Embassy 
failed to provide a detailed accounting of what George Soros 
does with his money.  Tabloid Vakaro Zinios, with the largest 
circulation in the country, took a similar approach. 
Nonetheless, they printed the Ambassador's letter. 
¶7. (SBU) Labor Party MP Grauziniene said on December 7 that 
she was dissatisfied with the formal responses of the State 
Security Department, Special Investigations Service, 
Financial Crimes Investigations Service, and Tax Inspectorate 
to her request for an investigation.  Commenting on the 
Ambassador's letter, Labor Party MP Dangute Mikutiene said 
"the letter received from the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania does 
not show whether it represents the opinion of the Ambassador 
or the official stance of U.S. federal institutions towards 
the activity of George Soros."  This was reported in 
Respublika under the front-page headline "World of Soros" and 
in Vakaro Zinios. 
 
OTHER GROUPS SPEAK OUT FOR CIVIL SOCIETY 
---------------------------------------- 
 
¶8. (U) Despite the continuing silence of most of the 
Lithuanian political class, some Lithuanians are resisting 
the campaign.   More than 60 Lithuanian intellectuals issued 
a statement to Respublika on November 30 condemning the 
attack on civil society.  They noted that Lithuanians have 
run the local chapter of the Open Society Fund here since 
¶1990.  Organizer Irena Vesaite noted that while the articles 
in Respublika could be ignored, the signatories could not 
remain silent because several political parties had also 
raised suspicions about civil society NGOs. 
 
¶9. (U) Some columnists have also begun to challenge the 
credibility of the anti-civil society argument, laying blame 
on internal and foreign political interests.  On December 7, 
the daily Lietuvos Zinios said that such attacks should have 
been anticipated in Lithuania "sooner or later."  The author 
noted the pressure Russia exerted on the National Endowment 
for Democracy, Freedom House, and Soros-funded activities, as 
it has in Georgia and Ukraine.  He noted that Labor Party 
leader Viktor Uspaskich criticized the Open Society Fund 
while admitting he did not know what it did.  Other press 
reports have surfaced showing that Labor Party officials, 
including Health Minister Padaiga, have personally received 
Soros funds in their professional careers. 
 
¶10. (U) Media Ethics Commission member Romas Gudaitis issued 
a statement urging Respublika's publishers to quit inspiring 
an atmosphere of hysteria in Lithuania, adding that Tomkus's 
articles should be seen as "nothing more than a failure, 
because there should be more analysis, more numbers, more 
data to prove the point, not just abrasive epithets and blind 
judgment of the many organizations and people Respublika does 
not like." 
 
PLAYING POLITICS WITH DEMOCRACY 
------------------------------- 
 
¶11. (SBU) MPs from parties asking for investigation of the 
Respublika accusations have told us that they expect the 
campaign to die down after the holidays, leaving no permanent 
damage to civil society.  Presidential Foreign Policy advisor 
Valteris Baliukonis told the Ambassador December 8 that 
President Adamkus, who has made no comments on the issue so 
far, did not plan to speak out.  Baliukonis explained that 
the President viewed the campaign as a desperate attempt by 
Tomkus to revive Respublika's flagging business interests. 
 
¶12. (S)  Other informed observers are less sanguine.  MFA 
Political Director Zygimantas Pavilonis told the Ambassador 
that he believes that the same parties who accept Russian 
funds to advance that country's interests here were the ones 
supporting the anti-NGO campaign.  When queried, he named the 
Liberal Democratic Party of deposed President Rolandas Paksas 
and Uspaskich's Labor Party.  Lithuanian intelligence sources 
agree that the anti-NGO jeremiad has the hallmarks of a 
Russia-financed influence campaign. 
 
¶13. (C) Several observers theorize that the campaign's 
fixation with Soros is designed to ensure that the USG stays 
out of the dispute.  Steponavicius, Pavilionis, and others 
tell us that the campaign's originators seem to expect that 
Soros's well-known antipathy for President Bush will dissuade 
the USG from speaking out, leaving the field open for them to 
attack the NGO community.  (Labor's response to the 
Ambassador's letter, which again emphasized questions about 
Soros, is consistent with this view.) 
NEXT STEPS 
---------- 
 
¶14. (SBU) The Embassy will continue to champion civil society 
as this controversy plays out.  We will encourage GOL 
officials, prominent Lithuanians, the media, and the 
international community to do so as well.  In addition, we 
recommend a strong statement by the Department in support of 
civil society in the region. 
MULL