C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 001050
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2016
TAGS: PGOV LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN FOREIGN POLICY GURU LANDS ON HIS FEET
AS PM'S ADVISOR
REF: VILNIUS 000922
Classified By: Political/Economic Section Chief Rebecca Dunham for reas
ons 1.4 (b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Albinas Januska was appointed advisor to
Prime Minister Kirkilas on November 20, ending weeks of
speculation following his abrupt resignation as
Undersecretary at MFA (reftel). Although he remains under a
cloud of allegations, Januska appears likely to weather the
storm. We expect him to be a very influential member of the
PM's team, who may even help position Kirkilas to run for
President. End Summary.
Scandal and counter-scandal
Â¶2. (U) Albinas Januska resigned as MFA Under Secretary in
September amid a storm of controversy (reftel). Since that
time, Parliament's National Security and Defense Committee
undertook an investigation to look into the circumstances
surrounding the death of Vytautas Pociunas, a Lithuanian
State Security Officer who died in Belarus on September 28.
The committee's final report is due on December 1.
Â¶3. (C) The investigation has been highly politicized, with
Conservative MPs taking the lead in criticizing the State
Security Department (VSD) and Januska. Januska, although
perfectly capable of stirring up controversy on his own, was
in this case caught up in a larger debate between the
Homeland Union (Conservative) Party and VSD. The
Conservatives pushed for an investigation into the mysterious
circumstances surrounding Pociunas's death, and the
investigation led to questions about why Pociunas had been
assigned to Belarus in the first place (an assignment over
which Januska allegedly had influence). The investigation
broadened into a wider look at VSD, including whether it had
information showing inappropriate ties between government
officials (including Januska) and business groups.
Simultaneously, the Conservatives became embroiled in another
scandal involving allegations that some VSD officials had
leaked information about ongoing corruption investigations to
Januska denies all
Â¶4. (U) Januska testified before the parliamentary committee
twice. He breezily dismissed claims that he has
inappropriate ties to the Gazprom-connected gas company
Dujotekana, saying, "I am not dependent on gas, because I
warm up (at home) with wood and electricity." He warned
Committee members that Lithuania suffers from "the influence
of cucumbers and sausages from Kedainiai," an open reference
to former Labor Party leader Viktor Uspackich, who once
traded in these commodities and is currently in self-imposed
exile in Moscow, avoiding charges of fraud in his party's
financing. Reflecting his self-image as a patriot fighting
off Russian influence, he also warned of the existence of "a
group of people, who are directed from the East, a group of
UFOs, who are making influence from the Cosmos" adding
elliptically that "there also exists a decreasing group of
persons, who are trying to rationally analyze the situation
and to objectively evaluate what is happening."
Appointment and future role: "Deep issues" and king maker?
Â¶5. (C) Januska's appointment as PM Kirkilas's advisor was
announced on November 20, despite the ongoing parliamentary
investigation. (On November 21, the Constitutional Court
ruled that parliamentary commissions do not have the
authority to examine personnel decisions by heads of
departments, which would include the decision to assign
Pociunas to Belarus. The ruling is still being parsed by
lawyers, but we believe this would mean that, whatever
Januska's role in the assignment, it should not be covered in
the investigation's findings.) Both the PM and President
Adamkus have been supportive of Januska throughout.
President Adamkus, for whom Januska worked from 1998 to 2002,
said Januska is competent and that he sees no relation
between the VSD investigation and Januska. The Prime
Minister said that if the investigation finds that Januska
did something wrong, then "we will behave accordingly, but I
don't think that it will be so."
Â¶6. (C) In his new capacity Januska will focus on strategic
issues. Prime Minister's Foreign Policy Advisor Darius
Pranskevicius told us November 21 that Januska is already on
board and working hard. Januska will work on "deep issues,"
such as how to engage Russia and energy policy. He will also
work on "special projects" and fast-developing crises.
Day-to-day foreign policy issues (i.e., foreign trip
planning, briefing memos, and talking point management) will
continue to fall to Pranskevicius.
Â¶7. (C) MFA Under Secretary Oskaras Jusys told us that the
appointment to the PM's staff was Januska's plan along; he
"plans everything three or four steps in advance." He said
that Januska will become PM Kirkilas's political advisor and
that his strategic skills and conatcts across the political
elite make him the best hope for the minority government to
remain in power through next year. Jusys, who has known
Januska since the days of the first Lithuanian Parliament,
recalled that Januska was one of the key architects of
Adamkus's first election. He speculated that, if the coming
year goes well, Kirkilas will position himself to run for
President under Januska's tutelage.
Â¶8. (C) Albinas Januska's continuing influence in Lithuanian
politics cannot be overstated. In addition to being a
cunning strategist, he is extraordinarily well-connected
among Lithuania's political class. (Many in the Foreign
Ministry attribute Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas's
appointment to Januska himself.) We expect him to make good
use of his unrivaled connections in the MFA and elsewhere to
forge GOL policy. It is also true, however, that Januska,
conspiratorial and asocial, has made some enemies along the
way. His presence will affect the PM's relations with
Parliament, and especially with the Conservative Party, on
whose support PM Kirkilas's minority coalition depends.