Viewing cable 05VILNIUS655

05VILNIUS6552005-06-22 09:47:00 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 03 VILNIUS 000655 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/20/2014 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 219 
     ¶C. VILNIUS 231 
     ¶D. VILNIUS 326 
     ¶E. 04 VILNIUS 382 
 AND (D). 
¶1. (C) Lithuania's complicated relations with Russia -- after 
five months of emotional tensions -- are improving again. 
The May visit of Russian FM Lavrov -- featuring his second 
meeting with Lithuanian Foreign Minister Valionis in a month 
-- produced a lengthy declaration promising enhanced 
cooperation on border, consular, and customs issues and 
better neighborly relations, a long-delayed agreement on 
ports and transit issues, and a Lithuanian agreement to not 
press compensation claims on Russia.  The ministers also 
agreed to launch negotiations on energy agreements to assure 
unfettered transit through Russia and Lithuania for oil, gas, 
and electricity.  Potential irritants continue to loom, 
however: Valionis on June 15 threatened to crack down on what 
he called a Russian-sponsored anti-Lithuania propaganda 
campaign, even as parliamentary opposition continued to press 
loudly for compensation for the Soviet occupation.  END 
New Year, New Disputes 
¶2. (U) Lithuanian-Russian relations took a turn for the worse 
in the first five months of 2005.  Perceived Russian pressure 
to participate in World War II commemorative ceremonies in 
Moscow on May 9, new attention to former KGB recruits in the 
current Lithuanian leadership, and crude insults and threats 
from Russia's resident Ambassador all contributed to a newly 
ugly atmosphere in the relationship as the year wore on.  And 
the pressures kept coming: Lithuania's parliamentary chief 
publicly threatened new expulsions of diplomats for alleged 
espionage in the Lithuanian parliament; the government closed 
a Russian language post-secondary academy for non-compliance 
with local regulations; and local press charged the 
government's Economic Minister -- ethnic Russian Victor 
Uspaskich -- with gross conflicts of interest in pursuing 
Russian commercial contracts for his former businesses. 
Lavrov's Mission to Vilnius 
¶3. (U) These heated incidents prompted Lithuanian Foreign 
Minister Valionis to visit Moscow April 8 to calm the waters, 
and that visit resulted in an agreement for Russian Foreign 
Minister Lavrov to return to Lithuania for a special session 
of the Lithuanian-Russian inter-governmental commission in 
May.  Lavrov and Russian Transportation Minister Igor Levitin 
traveled to Vilnius May 26 for the meeting, which made 
progress in focusing the bilateral relationship on more 
constructive issues.  Arunas Vinciunas, Head of the MFA's 
Russia Division, told us the meeting produced final agreement 
on the so-called "2K" plan to equalize access to and 
infrastructure at the ports of Klaipeda and Kaliningrad. 
Previously, Russia had charged higher tariffs on goods headed 
to Klaipeda for export than those headed to Kaliningrad. 
Statement of Political Good Will 
¶4. (U) The Foreign Ministers issued a joint statement at the 
conclusion of Lavrov's visit, pledging to enhance bilateral 
cooperation and to develop neighborly relations.  Vinciunas 
characterized the statement as "three pages of positive 
political intentions" that will encourage cooperation between 
working-level officials in both countries.  The statement 
laid out the governments' satisfaction with the passenger 
transit mechanism (a target for frequent Russian griping 
since its implementation two years previously) and their 
agreement to address related consular issues.  It also sets 
forth their interest in improving cooperation on 
phytosanitary issues concerning veterinary cargo, insurance 
requirements, and border-crossing procedures, among other 
matters.  Vinciunas said that ministers did not discuss 
military issues. 
Russia's Perspective 
¶5. (C) Russia's DCM in Vilnuis, Dmitry Tsvetkov, told us that 
current relations between Russia and Lithuania are basically 
good, and had not particularly suffered as a result of 
President Adamkus's decision not to attend Moscow's May 9 
commemoration.  Noting that regular Lithuanian demands that 
Russia make amends for the Soviet occupation of Lithuania 
were unhelpful, Tsvetkov welcomed what he said was Valionis's 
commitment to Lavrov that the GOL would refrain from publicly 
pressing the point.  Political Counselor Valery Pospelov 
contemptuously dismissed the Baltic nations' concerns 
entirely:  "It's ridiculous propaganda," he said.  "We were 
one country."  On the related matter of Lithuanian claims to 
compensation for damages stemming from the Soviet era, 
Tsvetkov was again dismissive.  Lithuanians were free to 
claim compensation, he said, only if they had been residents 
of Russia (other than as political prisoners or deportees) 
during Soviet times. 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
Road Ahead: Negotiations on Travel Documents, Energy 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
¶6. (C) Despite the statement's satisfaction with the 
implementation of procedures governing Russian transit 
through Lithuania to and from Kaliningrad, Russian diplomats 
here signaled an intention to pursue changes to the system. 
In the current system, Russians who want to transit Lithuania 
between the two territories must procure a "facilitated 
travel document" (FTD), issued after Lithuanian security 
checks, from the point of embarkation.  Pospelov maintained 
that Lithuania's accession to the Schengen zone would require 
a new system featuring Schengen visas for transiting 
Russians.  (Note:  Lithuanian foreign ministry officials said 
that, although they had not reached a final conclusion, they 
did not foresee any problems with continuing the use of the 
current FTD system after Schengen accession. End note.) 
¶7.  (C) Pospelov also said that Lavrov discussed energy with 
his Lithuanian interlocutors and noted that Russia and the 
GOL will begin to negotiate new bilateral agreements 
regarding cooperation on gas, oil, and electricity. 
Vinciunas, head of MFA's Russia Desk, said that the 
agreements would guarantee free transit of energy through 
Russia and Lithuania.  Currently, Lithuania's ability to use 
Russian pipelines to import oil and gas is subject to the 
whims of state-owned Russian companies.  Lithuania supports 
the idea, since it would remove one of Russia's economic 
weapons, allowing Lithuania to purchase oil and gas from 
producers in Central Asia and the Caucausus and ship them 
through pipelines located in Russia or owned by Russian 
companies.  For Russia, the agreements' main benefit would be 
freer access to supply energy to Kaliningrad.  Vinciunas was 
pessimistic that the negotiations would be successful, 
because he believes that Russia is reluctant to relinquish 
oil as a source of leverage over Lithuania. 
Irritants Remain 
¶8. (C) Lavrov's visit for now changed the tone of 
Lithuanian-Russian relations for the better, but emotional 
irritants continue to crop up outside, and even sometimes 
within, inter-governmental channels.  On June 14, the 
anniversary of the launch of Soviet deportations of 
Lithuanians in 1941, the parliamentary opposition introduced 
a resolution criticizing Russia's refusal to recognize the 
occupation of the Baltics and demanding approximately 80 
billion Litas (over USD 20 billion) for reparations from 
Russia for occupation damages.  Conservative MP Rasa 
Jukneviciene called Putin's May 9 celebrations a 
"Machiavellian show," and claimed that the Russians are still 
spreading propaganda about the Baltics.  PM Brazauskas, on 
behalf of the center-left coalition that he heads, responded 
that Lithuania would achieve more through negotiations than 
through unilateral resolutions.  Meanwhile, on June 15, 
Foreign Minister Valionis bitterly criticized broadcasting 
from a Russian-financed television station in Lithuania for 
what he called provocative anti-Lithuanian propaganda, and 
threatened action to silence the station. 
¶9. (C) The GOL may have promised to play nice with Russia, 
but politicians, having made no such promise, will likely 
continue to spotlight past Soviet abuses and to question 
Russian intentions -- as much for EU and foreign observers as 
Lithuanian.  It is unlikely, however, that either Lithuania 
or Russia will let the rhetoric get in the way of business. 
The neighbors' critical, intertwined economic and political 
interests, including Lithuania's oil supply and Russia's 
access to Kaliningrad, compel them to work together, despite 
their mutual aversion.