Viewing cable 06VILNIUS11

06VILNIUS112006-01-06 05:06:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED 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. Congressman Sensenbrenner, on behalf of Ambassador 
Stephen Mull and our colleagues at the U.S. Mission in 
Vilnius, thank you for traveling to Lithuania.  Your visit 
here will provide an opportunity to show gratitude to 
Lithuania for its staunch and unwavering support in the 
U.S.-led Global War on Terror.  It will also afford the 
Lithuanians an occasion to discuss high-profile migration 
and travel issues with the most authoritative possible 
interlocutor.  Planned meetings with President Adamkus, 
Speaker of Parliament Paulauskas, Foreign Minister 
Valionis, and Interior Minister Furmanavicius will afford 
you the chance to discuss visa policy and to celebrate and 
strengthen the already exceptionally friendly bilateral 
relations the United States shares with Lithuania. 
Lithuanian History in Brief 
¶2. The rich culture of Lithuania goes back more than two 
thousand years.  Lithuanians are a branch of the Balts, who 
probably settled in the region around 200 B.C.  Lithuanian 
is one of the oldest languages in Europe.  The first 
written mention of Lithuania was in the Annales 
Quedlinburgenses in 1009 A.D. 
¶3. The Grand Duke Mindaugas established the first 
Lithuanian state in 1230.  He converted to Christianity 
briefly and was crowned king of Lithuania in 1252.  The 
Grand Duke Gediminas, who reigned from 1316 to 1341, is 
credited with founding Vilnius, at the confluence of the 
Neris and Vilnia rivers, and a dynasty that united 
Lithuania and Poland from 1386 until 1795. 
¶4. Lithuania progressively entered European culture.  At 
the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom 
was formally merged into a commonwealth headed by a 
monarch.  This union came under threat from Prussia, 
Austria, and Russia at the end of the 18th century.  In 
1795, Russia annexed most of Lithuania and tried to impose 
Russian culture. 
¶5. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania regained its 
independence and restored its statehood.  Lithuania 
remained free for only 22 years.  In 1940, the Soviet Union 
occupied Lithuania; Nazi Germany overran the country the 
following year; and the Soviets returned in 1944.  Armed 
resistance against the Soviets continued for several years 
after the end of World War II.  For more than 50 years 
under the Soviets, Lithuanians held onto the goal of 
¶6. In February 1990, the anti-Communist popular movement 
Sajudis won an overwhelming majority in free parliamentary 
elections.  That March, the Supreme Council, under the 
leadership of Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, restored 
Lithuania's independence.  Lithuania became a member of the 
United Nations on September 17, 1991.  The last Soviet 
soldier left in August 1993.  In April 2004, Lithuania 
joined NATO.  In May 2004, Lithuania became a member of the 
European Union. 
¶7. 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 Sudan.  Lithuania's footprint 
goes far beyond what one would expect from a country of 
such small size (population 3.5 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 
¶8. Lithuania inaugurated Valdas Adamkus on July 12, 2004 as 
its fourth president since the restoration of independence 
in 1991.  Adamkus, a former American citizen, 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.  Lithuania thereby obtained the dubious 
distinction of being the only European democracy to have 
removed its head of state.  The process was bumpy, but 
largely transparent and democratic.  In the aftermath of 
the impeachment, Lithuania played out a highly charged 
contest for the presidency that pitted the centrist Adamkus 
against a candidate whose populist agenda promoted 
increased social spending, reconsideration of Lithuania's 
participation in Iraq, and, most notably, decreased U.S. 
influence in Europe.  Adamkus cast his victory in this 
contest as confirmation of a foreign policy agenda that 
highlights the importance of the U.S. presence in Lithuania 
and Europe. 
¶9. 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 
¶10. Lithuania is one of the fastest growing economies in 
Europe.  The country's robust economic growth continues, 
having slowed from 9.7 percent GDP growth in 2003 to a 
still enviable seven percent increase in 2004.  GDP through 
the first three quarters of 2005 stood at 6.9 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 United 
States runs a trade deficit with Lithuania, with imports 
exceeding U.S. exports by about USD 144 million in 2004. 
¶11. 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.  All of the leading candidates to purchase the 
refinery, 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. 
¶12. 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. 
¶13. 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 conduct patrols 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. 
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 
¶14. 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. 
Lithuania Active in the "Near Abroad" 
¶15. 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.  In Belarus, Lithuanian governmental and non- 
governmental organizations work with nascent democratic 
forces both bilaterally and through regional frameworks 
such as e-PINE.  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. 
Lithuanian-Russian Relations 
¶16. Lithuania works hard to maintain good relations with 
Russia.  Mutual interests in transit, 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 has 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. 
The Special Lithuanian-U.S. Relationship 
¶17. Starting in the 19th century, a flood 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. 
Migration and Border Security Issues 
¶18.  More than a century of emigration to the United States 
means that migration remains one of the most prominent 
issues in the bilateral relationship.  As many as 2,100 
Lithuanians have emigrated to the U.S. permanently in 
recent years, most of them via the Diversity Visa program. 
Upwards of 9,500 Lithuanians apply for nonimmigrant visas 
each year, and Lithuania has one of the largest Summer Work 
and Travel (J visa) programs per capita in the world.  The 
subject of visas arises frequently in official meetings and 
in the press, and you will likely be asked about 
Lithuania's prospects for inclusion in the Visa Waiver 
Program (VWP). 
¶19.  Lithuania was one of several Eastern European 
countries to develop a Visa Waiver Roadmap (VWR) last year. 
Announced in April 2005, Lithuania's VWR aims to help 
Lithuania meet the VWP's legal requirements, and the 
Government of Lithuania and Embassy work actively to that 
end.  Our efforts to date have focused on a public outreach 
campaign to encourage proper use of U.S. visas and 
cooperation on timely reporting of lost and stolen 
¶20.  As a border state, Lithuania understands its role in 
securing the borders of the EU.  The USG has provided 
financial and technical support to combat smuggling and, 
especially, proliferation.  Unfortunately, Lithuanian 
passports have proven to be a document of choice for 
forgers and imposters in Europe, which the Government of 
Lithuania is working to address.  Several of the briefings 
during your visit will discuss this subject. 
Preview of Your Visit 
¶21. Ambassador Mull, who is currently on travel, will host 
a country-team briefing at the beginning of your stay, and 
a dinner and a reception in your honor featuring 
Lithuania's best and brightest.  We've also confirmed 
meetings for you with the President, the Speaker of 
Parliament, and the Interior and Foreign Ministers.  All of 
us here at Embassy Vilnius very much look forward to your 
visit.  We'll see you on Tuesday!