Viewing cable 07VILNIUS142

07VILNIUS1422007-02-28 10:26:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0142/01 0591026
R 281026Z FEB 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000142 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2017 
REF: A. MOSCOW 406 B. 06 VILNIUS 1136 C. 05 VILNIUS 
     104 D. 06 VILNIUS 526 E. 06 VILNIUS 526 
Classified By: Pol/Econ Chief Rebecca Dunham for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
¶1. (C) Summary.  Lithuania's relationship with Russia 
continues to affect Lithuania's foreign policy and much of 
its domestic politics.  Fifteen years after independence, 
Lithuania is still a teenager, struggling -- sometimes rashly 
-- to demonstrate its independence.  Nevertheless, most 
Lithuanians recognize the need to work positively with their 
former occupier, on whom they remain dependent for energy 
supplies and much else.  End Summary. 
Russian threat lurks in the Lithuanian mind 
¶2. (C) Most Lithuanians still feel threatened by Russia, even 
if they are "Russia's favorite Baltic neighbor" (ref A). 
Outspoken Russia critic and former President Vytautas 
Landsbergis speaks for many when he traces crime, corruption, 
populism, and all bad things back to Russia.  Lithuanians are 
still bitter, he told us, about Russia's refusal to 
acknowledge that Lithuania did not join the Soviet Union 
freely.  The head of the MFA's Russia Department agreed that 
this historical question remains the greatest bilateral issue 
between the two countries.  "The fact that the old KGB came 
into power and refused to recognize us as a successor state 
(of interwar Lithuania)," he said, is a "danger to our very 
essence" that is "not going to change with this Kremlin." 
¶3. (SBU) The public broadly agrees.  On January 16, 
Parliament overwhelmingly, albeit unrealistically, passed a 
resolution urging Russia to start consultations with 
Lithuania about compensation for the Soviet occupation, a 
reiteration of a 2000 law requiring the GOL to seek redress 
for LTL 80 billion (approximately USD 30.7 billion) in 
damages during Soviet rule.  A November 2006 poll found that 
46 percent of Lithuanians had an unfavorable or very 
unfavorable view of Russia, and only 5 percent a very 
favorable view.  Thirty-nine percent of Lithuanians named 
Russia as the greatest threat to Lithuania. 
From Russia with love 
¶4. (C) Perceived Russian affronts aggravate Lithuania's 
concerns.  The Minister of Defense repeatedly raises the 
September 2005 crash of a Russian Su-27 fighter aircraft in 
Lithuania as primary justification for a renewed NATO Baltic 
Air Policing Mission.  While acknowledging that there is a 
public relations element to keeping the air-policing mission 
in place, the Defense Ministry rejects the notion that there 
is not also a threat-based rationale.  "Without air 
policing," an undersecretary told us, "Russia will just send 
its fighter jets across our territory and all we'll be able 
to do is send a diplomatic note." 
¶5. (C) The closing of the Druzhba ("friendship") oil pipeline 
in July 2006, ostensibly for repairs, is cited as exhibit 
number one that Russia uses energy supplies to influence 
Lithuania's domestic affairs.  Russian platitudes 
notwithstanding, no Lithuanian interlocutor has expressed any 
doubt that that the cutoff was an attempt to thwart the sale 
of Lithuania's Maziekiu Nafta oil refinery to the Polish 
Company PKN Orlen.  Head of the MFA's Economic Security 
Department even read to us from an intelligence document that 
had predicted a retaliatory cut-off several weeks before the 
pipeline "accident".  FM Vaitiekunas described the situation 
for the Ambassador this way: "Under the USSR, we had the 
barrel of a gun pointed toward us.  Now, we have the barrel 
of a pipeline pointed toward us." 
Domestic meddling 
¶6. (C) The oft-made claim that Russian special services 
meddle in Lithuania's domestic political affairs finds a 
broad audience here.  Alexandras Matonis, a reputable local 
journalist, complained to us of "an information war waged 
every day, every hour, where Russian services try to 
discredit the west and influence our domestic politics, pay 
to place articles in papers, and fund our politicians." 
Ex-president Landsbergis made the same argument, saying that 
Russian "specialists" backed the three "populist attacks" on 
Lithuania by financing and advising former speaker of the 
parliament Paulauskas (son of a KGB Colonel), former 
President Paksas (impeached amid suspicions of connections to 
Russian mafia) and former Economy Minister and Labor Party 
Leader Uspaskich (old Gazprom man now on the lam in Russia - 
Ref E). 
VILNIUS 00000142  002 OF 003 
¶7. (C) Theories of Russian interference in domestic politics 
are hard to prove but plausible, given Russia's large 
intelligence presence in Lithuania (Ref C), the flexible 
ethics of Lithuania's political leaders, and the ease of 
planting stories in Lithuania's undisciplined media.  What is 
certain is that allegations of Russian backing continue to be 
the blunt weapon of choice among political rivals (along with 
outing rivals as former KGB officers or reservists--see refs 
No Stockholm Syndrome here 
¶8. (C) If Russia is backing political parties, it's not clear 
that they are getting much for it.  To succeed, Lithuania's 
populist parties must appeal to a much broader segment of the 
population than the narrow base of pro-Russian constituents. 
Lithuania's Russian minority is small: around 6 percent of 
the population.  Russia is Lithuania's number one trade 
partner, but only 13 percent of Lithuanians name Russia as an 
important political and economic partner.  MPs reject the 
idea that populist voters are nostalgic for the Soviet-era. 
"Of course there's nostalgia," another Conservative MP, Rasa 
Jukneviciene, told us.  "Many people are old now and they are 
nostalgic for when they were young, but not for Russian 
GOL strives for better relations 
¶9. (C) Safely in the EU and NATO, with no serious pro-Russian 
political contingent within its borders, the GOL can afford 
to pursue more pragmatic and constructive relations with 
Russia even if politicians and the public hold some 
anti-Russian views.  Still dependent on Russia for oil and 
gas supplies and for Lithuania's most important trade 
relationship, the GOL knows this is the path it must at least 
try to take.  In 2006, FM Vaitiekunas left for Russia to 
participate in the bi-annual GOL-GOR intergovernmental 
Cooperative Commission (chaired on Russia's side by Transport 
Minister Levitin) with a list of 22 ways that Lithuania and 
Russia could improve their relationship.  The MFA also 
invited Russian FM Lavrov to a border demarcation ceremony in 
Lithuania this spring, although it still isn't clear if 
Lavrov will accept. 
¶10. (C) But Russia-Lithuania relations have a "glass 
ceiling," MFA's Russia Department Head Arunas Vinciunas told 
us.  "On those things we absolutely need Russian cooperation 
for, like border demarcation, we have it," he explained. 
Russia and Lithuania have stable agreements on the easy, 
necessary things: border crossing, cargo insurance, rail 
tariffs and transit fees to Kaliningrad, and so on.  Progress 
in new areas is proving elusive, even outside the troublesome 
energy sector.  Of the minister's 22 proposals, Russia was 
cool even to what Vinciunas called "one of the easy things," 
an agreement to allow yachting in the Curonian Lagoon between 
Kaliningrad and Lithuania.  A 2005 agreement called "2K," 
which would equalize access to the ports of Klaipeda and 
Kaliningrad, has stalled. 
¶11. (C) Engagement on the big issues is even harder. 
According to Vinciunas, Russia refuses substantive bilateral 
talk on energy security, insisting that environmental 
concerns alone hold up repair of the Druzhba pipeline. 
Vinciunas called it a "good sign" that Russian Deputy FM 
Titov was willing to meet MFA Undersecretary Talat-Kelpsa in 
early 2007.  "We don't have the highest level dialogue, but 
we have political contacts," he said.  "I believe that 
Lithuania-Russia relations are as good as they can get," he 
added, not positively. 
EU tempers Lithuania 
¶12. (C) Where bilateral Russia-Lithuania relations fail to 
deliver progress or even dialogue, Lithuania looks to shape 
EU-Russia policy in its favor.  It is in EU structures that 
Lithuania's policy brew of confrontation and pragmatism often 
plays out. 
¶13. (C) Most often, and despite its reputation, Lithuania has 
ultimately not blocked Russian interests in EU structures. 
Most importantly, Lithuania continues to support Russian 
interests with respect to the Kaliningrad region, including 
an exception to keep the current Kaliningrad transit regime 
in place once Lithuania joins the Schengen zone.  Lithuania 
has been the most sympathetic country within the EU to 
Russia's desire for a regime that allows transit of Lithuania 
with documents other than a Schengen visa. 
¶14. (C) Lithuania's reticence to block Russian interests may 
be changing, however.  Political Director Zygimantis 
VILNIUS 00000142  003 OF 003 
Pavilionis told Ambassador that Poland's obstruction of the 
EU-Russia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) is the 
only thing that finally drew Western Europe's attention to 
Poland's concerns about Russia's  ban on imports of Polish 
meat.  Pavilionis said that Lithuania has learned a lesson 
from the Poles.  Angry that the German Presidency has not 
paid attention to the cut-off of the Druzhba pipeline to 
Lithuania, Pavilionis told the Ambassador that Lithuania may 
rejoin Poland in blocking a mandate for the PCA. 
¶15. (C) Lithuania annoys many of its European partners with 
its positions on EU-Russia relations, Russia Department Head 
Vinciunas told us.  Talking about the contentious EU-Putin 
summit at Lahti, the Ambassador from (then-EU Council 
president) Finland agreed, saying Lithuania needs to talk 
about things besides Russia.  Lithuania's Foreign Minister 
and President raise energy and neighborhood policy at nearly 
every European Council or GAERC, but seldom go to bat in 
European structures on any external issue that doesn't touch 
Russia.  The GOL has a habit of hosting conferences on issues 
most sensitive to Russia (2006: democracy promotion, EU/NATO 
expansion, and frozen conflicts; planned for 2007: energy 
security in Europe); and it rallies pro-western leaders from 
transforming democracies, but does little to encourage 
multilateral dialogue with (no-show) Russia or to garner 
support from Western Europe, which worries that fanfare 
around the revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine needlessly 
irritate Russia. 
¶16. (C) At ease with leaders of transforming democracies, 
Lithuania struggles to earn credibility within the EU as a 
mediator between the EU and neighborhood countries.  FM 
Vaitiekunas consulted broadly with EU allies (and us) before 
he flew to Tbilisi in the midst of the September-October 
Russian spy scandal to condemn Russia's "disproportionate 
response" to the Georgia's expulsion of four Russian 
diplomats.  While there, he also urged Saakashvili to 
de-escalate tension so as not worry European allies and 
damage Georgia's chances at Intensified Dialogue with NATO. 
Two days later, he (unsuccessfully) pushed for language about 
"disproportionate response" or "Georgia's territorial 
integrity" in the GAERC conclusions.  This hurt Lithuania's 
positions in the concurrent negotiations on the EU-Russia 
PCA, according to Gulbinas.  "We are seen as troublemakers 
now," he observed. 
¶17. (C) Lithuania has a sincere desire to promote democracy 
in Europe and elsewhere, but it doesn't miss many chances to 
blame Russia for the region's challenges.  To be seen as a 
credible expert on neighborhood policy by the EU, Lithuania 
knows (and says) it must temper its shrill tone toward 
Russia; counsel moderation -- not confrontation --  to 
neighborhood allies like Saakashvili; and ultimately support 
freedom and democratic transformation beyond the frozen 
conflicts bordering Russia.  But the GOL is often tempted to 
push its own historical experience of kicking out Russian 
troops and rapidly joining the EU and NATO on those states 
locked in struggles with Russia today.  "Our states have 
similar historical experiences, and therefore we understand 
the strivings of the Georgian people," PM Kirkilas said in 
relatively distant Tbilisi.  He could say the same elsewhere, 
too.  Given Lithuanians' lingering fear, anger, and pride, 
they are perhaps happy to be accused of "trying to draw a new 
front line with Russia," as Russian Deputy Foreign Minister 
Grigory Karasin told a high-ranking Lithuanian MFA official 
after the May 2006 summit on Neighborhood Policy. 
Looking forward 
¶18. (C) Lithuania expects to be frustrated with what it sees 
as Russian bullying, and is not counting on productive 
relations.  But the GOL will nevertheless continue to pursue 
its policy mix of confrontation and pragmatism with Russia 
because it, like the USG, recognizes that Russia cannot be 
ignored.  Lithuania's administration accepts the need 
ultimately to play nice with Russia, but many of its 
politicians do not.  We expect they will continue to 
antagonize Russia with resolutions calling for compensation 
for victims of the Soviet occupation and loudly condemning 
Russian interference in Eastern Europe.