Viewing cable 06VILNIUS705
Title: LITHUANIAN AND BELARUSIAN AIR FORCE COMMANDERS

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06VILNIUS7052006-07-31 14:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXYZ0007
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVL #0705/01 2121428
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 311428Z JUL 06 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0432
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000705 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
STATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/UMB 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2016 
TAGS: MARR PREL BO LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN AND BELARUSIAN AIR FORCE COMMANDERS 
MEET ABOUT BORDER INCURSION 
 
Classified By: Pol/Econ officer Traver Gudie for reasons 1.4 b,d. 
 
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SUMMARY 
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¶1. (C) Lithuanian Air Force Commander Arturas Leita invited 
Belarus's Air Force Commander Oleg Paferov to Lithuania to 
discuss an alleged June 19 border incursion by a Belarusian 
helicopter into Lithuanian territory, an event which Belarus 
denies.  The Lithuanian side was seeking an explanation for 
the incursion: a June diplomatic note to Belarus remains 
unanswered.  Ministry officials told us that the Belarusian 
Commander continued to stonewall, pointing to Lithuania's 
inability to prove the incursion.  Although Lithuania 
maintains working level contacts with the Belarusian military 
and pursues a bilateral cooperation plan with Belarus, this 
meeting was at a higher level than normal for an official 
invitation (although the commanders often meet unofficially). 
 According to Lithuanian Defense officials, Belarus 
frequently (but unsuccessfully) seeks higher level meetings 
with Lithuanian counterparts, and has exploited recent border 
incidents to get them.  End Summary. 
 
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Lithuania fails to get explanation from Belarus 
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¶2. (C) Lithuania's Air Force Commander invited his Belarusian 
counterpart to Kaunas, Lithuania for bilateral talks July 
27-28.  The Defense Ministry's Belarus desk officer Gediminas 
Sereika told us on July 24 that the primary impetus for these 
talks -- held at a higher level than usual -- was to discuss 
a June 19 border incursion by a Belarusian helicopter, 
although the agenda also included Lithuania's bilateral 
military cooperation with Belarus.  On July 31, Sereika told 
us that the sides discussed the incident only briefly, as the 
Belarusians denied that the incursion ever happened. 
 
¶3. (C) Sereika told us that the Ministry had tried several 
times to engage the Belarusian government about the 
incursion, calling in the Belarusian Defense Attache and 
sending a diplomatic note.  The Belarusian officials 
stonewalled, denying that the helicopter crossed the border 
and refusing to discuss the incident further.  He said that 
the Lithuanian Defense Attache in Minsk had been told that 
higher level contact was necessary to address the border 
incident.  Although the Commanders had met informally before, 
Belarus demanded an official invitation for this meeting. 
After the meeting, Sereika remarked that the Belarusian side 
was "happier with the meeting than we are."  The Belarusian 
Commander still refused to engage on the question and called 
the incursion an "optical illusion" during a press conference 
after the meeting. 
 
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Defense Ministry trying to look tough in the press 
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¶4. (C) Following the meeting, Lithuanian Armed Forces 
Commander Valdas Tutkus told the press that Belarus and 
Lithuania agreed to improve their "hotline" arrangement 
whereby their respective Air Force Commanders can directly 
contact each other in the event of a border incursion. 
Tutkus then outlined Lithuanian proposals that Belarus not 
hold military exercises near the border or, alternatively, 
that Belarus notify Lithuania of such exercises in advance. 
Sereika said that the sides discussed their hotline 
procedures, but there was no change to the existing 
arrangement.  Sereika told us that Belarus did not (and most 
probably would not) accept the proposals that Tutkus outlined 
publicly, but had agreed to state during the press conference 
that the sides would work on improving the arrangement. 
 
¶5. (C) The agreement to improve the hotline arrangement and 
the Lithuanian proposals were a part of the Ministry's press 
strategy, said Sereika.  The June 19 border incursion 
attracted widespread press attention in Lithuania and the 
Defense Ministry's State Secretary had to appear before 
Parliament to answer questions about the incursion.  The day 
before the meeting, the Ministry placed a news story on the 
Lithuanian wire service titled: "Belarusian Air Force Chief 
to Hear Unpleasant Questions about Lithuanian Air Space 
Violations." 
 
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Lithuania pursues working level contacts with Belarus 
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¶6. (C) Sereika told us that Lithuania pursues continued 
 
dialogue with working-level Belarusian Defense Ministry 
counterparts, but Belarus frequently tries to push meetings 
to a higher level.  Lithuania and Belarus maintain a 
bilateral cooperation plan that provides for annual meetings 
of the heads of their International Relations Departments and 
the training of Belarusian Ministry officers with the rank of 
major.  Sereika said that on almost every occasion Belarus 
suggests a higher level delegation, which Lithuania refuses. 
 
¶7. (C) According to Sereika, Belarusian Defense Officials 
seek practical advice and assistance about armed forces 
transformation during their bilateral meetings, specifically 
advice about managing costs and managing salaries and 
pensions.  Belarusian officials also sought Lithuanian advice 
on engaging in an international mission.  The Belarusians 
claim, according to Sereika, to have 15 trained officers 
ready to take part in an international mission, and have 
sought information about Lithuania's international operations 
in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo (although they did not 
express interest in any particular mission). 
 
¶8. (C) Lithuania offers three- to six-month English language 
training to Belarusian military officers on a constant basis. 
 Belarus's Defense Ministry treats these as rewards 
(Lithuania provides housing and per diem), he said, rather 
than opportunities to train officers who will use English. 
Nevertheless, the primary benefit comes from mixing the 
officers with the other officers in the course who come from 
Lithuania's "neighborhood" countries (Ukraine, Moldova, 
Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan) and take a concurrent 
course about NATO and EU relations that the Belarusian 
officers do not take. 
 
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Comment 
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¶9. (C) While by their own account Lithuanian officials did 
not get what they wanted from the Belarusian Commander's 
visit, the Ministry nevertheless exploited the visit to look 
like it was doing something about airspace violations.  The 
Lithuanian Defense Ministry's policy of pursuing working 
level engagement with Belarus while avoiding higher level 
meetings is consistent with the GOL's overall Belarus policy 
and the EU-enunciated policy parameters that inform 
Lithuanian efforts.  As Belarus's neighbor, Lithuania thinks 
that it must solve some sensitive issues with Belarus by 
engaging Belarus at working levels.  This meeting rose to the 
service commander level because of the importance of airspace 
violations to Lithuanian policy and public perceptions; it 
does not, we think, constitute an upgrading of the bilateral 
relationship. 
KELLY