Viewing cable 06VILNIUS102

06VILNIUS1022006-02-02 08:22:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 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. (SBU) Senators McCain and Lieberman, a hearty welcome 
and our sincere thanks to you and your colleagues for 
traveling to Lithuania!  Your visit will provide an 
opportunity to show gratitude to Lithuania for its staunch 
and unwavering support in the U.S.-led Global War on Terror 
and bolster international efforts to support democracy in 
Belarus.  A meeting with Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas 
will afford you the chance to celebrate and strengthen the 
already exceptionally friendly bilateral relationship the 
United States shares with Lithuania.  Discussions with 
regional parliamentary leaders and members of the 
Belarusian opposition will provide you with insight on 
events in the run-up to the March elections there and with 
a forum in which to reiterate the USG message on the way 
forward.  Time permitting, I would also like to take 
advantage of your visit here to press the Lithuanian 
government on approving restitution for Jewish communal 
property that the Nazis and Communists confiscated ? an 
issue now at a critical juncture here. 
¶2. (U) 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 Afghanistan.  Lithuania's 
footprint goes far beyond what one would expect from a 
country of such small size (population 3.4 million) and 
with such a short time on the field.  On the home front, 
Lithuania weathered a turbulent presidential impeachment in 
2004 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 
¶3. (U) Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas ? a former 
communist official who bolted from Moscow control in the 
late 1980's to join Lithuania's independence movement ? 
looks forward to greeting you in the first event of your 
visit.  The Prime Minister leads a fractious government of 
four leftist/populist coalition partners that have 
generally been strongly supportive of U.S. foreign policy 
initiatives.  Its penchant for political infighting and 
scandal has fatigued many average Lithuanians, who 
generally express growing cynicism with the democratic 
process in public opinion polls.  President Valdas Adamkus, 
who will not have returned from overseas travel in time for 
your visit, began his second term as President on July 12, 
¶2004.  Adamkus, a former American citizen and U.S. EPA 
official, 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. 
¶4. (U) 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 
¶5. (U) Lithuania is one of the fastest growing economies in 
Europe.  The country's robust economic growth continues, 
with GDP growth in 2005 reaching 7.3 percent.  Analysts 
forecast annual average real GDP growth of 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. is the 
seventh largest source of foreign direct investment in 
Lithuania, and runs a trade deficit, with imports exceeding 
U.S. exports by about USD 144 million in 2004.  An 
increasingly urgent problem for Lithuania is its loss of 
skilled labor to higher paying jobs elsewhere in the 
European Union; a challenge that Lithuania's shrinking 
population only magnifies. 
¶6. (U) 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.  The leading candidates to purchase the 
refinery are currently the Polish PKN Orlen and Kazak 
Kazmunay, but other contenders, including the U.S. firm 
ConocoPhillips, 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. 
¶7. (U) 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 United States 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. 
¶8. (U) 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 
leads a multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in 
Chagcharan in Afghanistan's remote Ghowr province.  In 
Iraq, Lithuanian soldiers serving under Danish and Polish 
command 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.  Lithuania further 
contributed to international missions by dispatching a 
military water purification team to Pakistan as part of the 
relief effort.  Lithuanian soldiers have also performed 
admirably as peacekeepers in the Balkans.  This year, they 
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 
¶9. (U) 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 
$16,000 in private donations; one elderly woman donated her 
entire life savings to the relief effort in gratitude for 
U.S. support for Lithuania. 
The Special Lithuanian-U.S. Relationship 
¶10. (U) Starting in the 19th century, thousands of 
Lithuanians fled poverty and oppression in their homeland 
and immigrated to the United States.  These longstanding 
ties of family and culture remain strong, and the 
Lithuanian-American community is well-organized and active. 
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. 
Lithuanian-Russian Relations 
¶11. (U) Lithuania works hard to maintain good relations 
with Russia.  Mutual interests in transportation, 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, 2005 incursion and crash of a Russian SU- 
27 fighter-bomber in Lithuania's territory 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, was placed under house arrest and questioned by 
Lithuanian authorities before returning to Russia.)  The 
issue 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, 
¶2005.  Polish fighters relieved our forces here on December 
30, 2005. 
Lithuania Active in the "Near Abroad" 
¶12. (U) 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.  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. 
¶13. (U) Lithuanian governmental and non-governmental 
organizations work with democratic forces in Belarus both 
bilaterally and through regional frameworks such as the 
U.S.-sponsored Enhanced Partnership in Northern Europe 
(EPINE).  The Government and Parliament support election 
reform, political party development, and grass-roots 
efforts to build civil society in Belarus.  Lithuania 
provides financial support and a temporary home for the 
European Humanities University, a Belarusian institution of 
higher learning in exile in Lithuania.  Together with the 
USG and the EU, Lithuania is considering projects for radio 
and TV programming focusing on Belarusian youth.  Lithuania 
serves as the NATO point of contact in Minsk, aiming to 
increase understanding of the alliance's mission and 
values.  While Lithuania officially supports the policy of 
non-engagement with the Lukashenko regime, some among 
Lithuania's political and government leaders have 
challenged this policy for tactical and economic reasons. 
Prime Minister Brazauskas met in Vilnius in October of 2005 
with Belarusian PM Sidorski in violation of an EU ban on 
contacts with high-level Belarusian officials.  A 
significant number in Lithuania's political elite believes 
that isolating Belarus could push the country into a 
tighter embrace with Russia, which in turn could result in 
greater Russian pressure on Lithuanian independence. 
¶14. (U) The March 19 presidential race in Belarus is big 
news in Lithuania.  Previously scheduled for mid-July, 
President Lukashenko announced the earlier date for 
elections only in December, giving opposition candidates 
little time to organize their campaigns and attract a 
significant number of voters.  Aleksander Milinkevich 
emerged as a leading opposition candidate in October 
following elections held by the Coalition of Democratic 
Forces, the largest congress of democratic political 
parties and NGOs in Belarus.  Brazauskas, as leader of the 
Lithuanian Social Democratic Party, just announced his 
support for Alexander Kozulin, the Social Democrat 
candidate in the Belarusian elections. 
¶15. (U) Lithuania has urged the EU to focus on the 
situation in Belarus and the need to make independent 
information available to the Belarusian people as a 
counterweight to the propaganda offered by state-controlled 
media.  Lithuania has also set aside funds to send election 
observers to Belarus under the auspices of the OSCE. 
Jewish Communal Property 
¶16.  (U) Lithuania has struggled for much of the past 15 
years since regaining independence with making restitution 
for the costs of Nazi and Soviet occupation, and it has 
succeeded to a great extent.  There is a process underway 
to provide restitution to Lithuanian citizens for lost 
private property, and the government has returned almost 
all confiscated religious property to Lithuania's various 
religious communities.  An important exception to this 
process has been in the area of Jewish communal property ? 
community centers, clinics, libraries and other property 
that Lithuania's prewar community held communally.  We have 
been working with U.S. Jewish community representatives and 
the Brazauskas government in support of legislation that 
will establish a restitution process, the proceeds of which 
will fund the revival of Jewish community life in 
Lithuania.  The government is about to submit the draft 
legislation to the Parliament, where it could encounter 
some opposition.  If you have the opportunity to raise the 
issue in your meeting with Brazauskas, your encouragement 
and support would help steel his commitment to supporting 
the legislation through to successful passage. 
Preview of Your Visit 
¶17. (SBU) I will greet your delegation upon arrival in 
Vilnius and provide a short preview of the day's events. 
We have confirmed a meeting in the morning with Prime 
Minister Brazauskas.  The rest of the day's events will 
focus on Belarus, as you will meet with Belarusian 
opposition candidate Aleksander Milinkevich, participate in 
a roundtable discussion on the promotion of democracy 
throughout the former Soviet Union, and take part in a 
press conference.  All of us here at Embassy Vilnius very 
much look forward to your visit.