UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000233
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV OVIP LH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR HIGHLIGHTS STRONG BILATERAL
RELATIONSHIP IN KAUNAS
REF: A) Vilnius 49 B) 05 Vilnius 996
Â¶1. SUMMARY: Ambassador Mull traveled to Kaunas,
Lithuania's second largest city, on February 28 to discuss
regional development, promote student travel to the United
States, and pay a courtesy call on Lithuania's new Air
Force Commander. The Ambassador highlighted our strong
bilateral relationship and thanked Lithuania for its
staunch support and valued contributions to the global war
on terror. The Ambassador also praised Lithuania's efforts
to spread democracy throughout the former Soviet Union.
Â¶2. The visit to Kaunas was the latest in a series
(reftels) of Ambassadorial trips to regional cities.
Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city with nearly 400,000
inhabitants, served as Lithuania's interwar capital.
The Ambassador's Message
Â¶3. The Ambassador conveyed a consistent message to
interlocutors praising Lithuania's support and involvement
in the Global War on Terror, including leading a Provincial
Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the difficult region of
Chagcharan, Afghanistan. The Ambassador highlighted
Lithuania's efforts to spread democracy to Belarus, Moldova
and the Caucasus, and for its activist foreign policy
through NATO in hosting the Baltic air-policing mission and
contributing humanitarian assistance to Asia and Pakistan
following recent natural disasters.
Â¶4. At a meeting with the county governor and regional
mayors, interlocutors highlighted Kaunas's economic
successes, from attracting foreign investment, developing a
Free Economic Zone, and expanding the region's airport.
County Governor Zigmantas Kazakevicius detailed the youth
and vibrancy of the region, noting that the region's
population included some 50,000 students, and is home to
some of Lithuania's most accomplished athletes, including
former NBA star Arvydas Sabonis. Interlocutors told the
Ambassador that the region had not yet benefited
significantly from EU structural funds.
Â¶5. Ambassador Mull stopped by a local high school to reach
out to young Lithuanians. Speaking before more than 100
twelfth-grade students at the Jonas Jablonskis Gymnasium,
which includes President Valdas Adamkus among its former
students, the Ambassador discussed American culture and
urged students to consider studying in America. Following
choral and theatrical presentations by students, the
Ambassador presented an Embassy-produced DVD that
encouraged Lithuanians to visit America and outlined
opportunities available at American institutions of higher
education. Students queried the Ambassador on his favorite
aspects of Lithuania and the differences between the U.S.
and Lithuanian university education system.
Â¶6. Ambassador Mull discussed the Lithuanian-American
bilateral relationship and American foreign policy with
students at Vytautas Magnus University. The students, part
of the Lithuania's most prestigious Master's level program
for diplomacy and international relations, questioned the
Ambassador on America's policies toward Iran, North Korea,
and the Kyoto Treaty.
Lithuania's New Air Force Commander
Â¶7. The Ambassador paid a courtesy call to Colonel Arturas
Leita, who was appointed Air Force Commander on January 20.
The Ambassador praised Lithuania's participation in the
Global War on Terror, highlighting Lithuania's leadership
of the PRT in Afghanistan. The Ambassador stressed the
value that the USG places on its partnership with
Lithuania's armed forces, and said that he hoped a
counterpart visit for Colonel Leita could be arranged in
the near future. He also expressed his commitment to
continuing to send Lithuanian Air Force personnel for
training in the United States. (NOTE: Lithuania currently
has three cadets studying at the U.S. Air Force Academy).
Leita noted that Lithuania's Air Force, though only 1,300-
strong, faces recruitment and retention problems.
Â¶8. Colonel Leita detailed the GOL decision to purchase
three C-27 medium logistic cargo airframes, the first of
which is scheduled for delivery later in 2006. Cost and
the lengthy procurement process, said Leita, precluded the
Air Force from addressing additional procurement and repair
needs. Ambassador Mull encouraged Leita to work within the
Ministry of Defense to bring the GOL's defense
expenditures, currently 1.27 percent of GDP, in line with
the NATO-mandated two percent threshold. The Ambassador
also encouraged Leita to work more closely with his
regional counterparts to assuage concerns within the
Alliance that cooperation is lacking among the Baltic
States, particularly regarding the stationing of air
Lithuanian Lebanese Society
Â¶9. The Ambassador met with members of the Lithuanian
Lebanese Society in order to heighten the profile of civil
society and minority organizations in Lithuania. This
interfaith organization represents the 200-plus Lebanese
citizens resident in Lithuania. The group told the
Ambassador that most of their members are medical and
pharmacy students at Kaunas Medical University (KMU). Basem
Ayachn, a fourth-year medical student who serves as
President of KMU's International Students Association, told
the Ambassador that the Association includes significant
numbers of Lebanese, Israeli, and Pakistani students.
Â¶10. The visit attracted significant local media interest.
The Ambassador provided an exclusive interview to Kauno
Diena (Kaunas Daily), the region's largest newspaper. The
Ambassador also conducted interviews with local television
and smaller print outlets following his meeting with the
region's political leaders.
Â¶11. A frequent visitor to Lithuania's second largest city,
Ambassador Mull used the visit to promote our bilateral
relationship and to meet individuals who will continue to
matter, both politically and military, for some time to
come in the region.