Viewing cable 08VILNIUS492

08VILNIUS4922008-06-25 13:52:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
O 251352Z JUN 08
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000492 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2018 
Classified By: Ambassador John A. Cloud for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
¶1. (C) Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas comes to Washington 
at a time of change for Lithuania.  In less than a 
generation, the country has gone from the yoke of Soviet 
authoritarianism to being an EU and NATO member, punching 
above its weight in out of area missions.  However, having 
achieved its twin goals of membership in the Western 
institutions, the country at times seems rudderless, unsure 
of where it wants to go next, or what it wants to be.  It 
remains and wants to remain a staunch U.S. ally, but as it 
moves increasingly deeper into the EU's institutions, we 
sometimes find less willingness to support U.S. interests. 
Your meeting is an opportunity to reinforce our friendship, 
and to encourage this small ally to keep up the good work 
where appropriate and to continue transforming into a modern 
state with values-based policies where work remains to be 
¶2. (C) Lithuania deserves praise for what it has achieved in 
Afghanistan, and Prime Minister (and former Defense Minister) 
Kirkilas can be proud of his role in this area.  Lithuania is 
working to expand its Special Forces mission in the South by 
adding Latvian troops to its contingent.  Even more 
impressive has been the GOL's taking on the leadership of the 
PRT in Ghor Province.  Ghor was relatively quiet until 
recently, but the PRT has been attacked several times in the 
past month and the first Lithuanian soldier has been killed. 
The GOL is keenly aware that it has been unable to finance 
any major development projects there, despite devoting nearly 
half of its very small foreign aid budget to Ghor.  USAID 
Administrator Fore and Assistant Secretary Boucher recently 
gave the GOL a hand by meeting with FM Vaitiekunas and the 
heads of the Kuwaiti, UAE, and Saudi delegations on the 
margins of the Paris Conference.  The latter two delegations 
expressed interest in funding a road project and the repaving 
of the Chagcharan airstrip, subject to some conditions.  We 
are encouraging the GOL to follow up on that interest by 
provide these potential donors with feasibility studies and 
solid plans quickly. 
¶3. (C) Unlike Afghanistan, Lithuanian willingness to continue 
its deployment in Iraq has been problematic.  Although 
Kirkilas and President Adamkus understand that we value the 
Lithuanian contribution, DefMin Olekas (Kirkilas's rival 
within the Social Democratic Party) believes our main 
interest is to have the Lithuanian flag in Iraq.  From that 
perspective, he views any significant deployment of troops to 
Iraq through the lens of this October's upcoming 
Parliamentary elections, and sees continued deployment there 
as a threat to his future political viability.  This was made 
evident by the great difficulty we went through to convince 
the GOL to continue supporting MNF-I after the Danes pulled 
out in 2007 (Lithuania had been dependent upon the Danes for 
logistical support). 
¶4. (C) Following appeals from both Secretary Gates and 
General Petraeus in March that Lithuania extend its platoon 
deployment to al-Kut, Olekas conceded to only a two-month 
extension (through the end of July).  He dug his heels in on 
further deployment and, we learned June 19, Kirkilas and 
Adamkus gave in, for fear of bringing the government down. 
Foreign Minister Vaitiekunas told me June 24 that he and 
others are still working to gain GOL approval for a different 
platoon-level deployment under MNF-I.  If he does not 
succeed, this will leave only a few Lithuanian trainers and 
staff officers in Iraq through the end of 2008, and no firm 
commitment to any Lithuanian contribution beginning in 2009. 
Nevertheless, I would hope Washington interlocutors would 
thank Kirkilas for Lithuania staying in MNF-I long after most 
EU countries bailed, and for trying to keep them longer. 
¶5. (C) The area where Lithuania has perhaps the most work to 
do is in changing its society into one that is tolerant of 
differences.  In my time in Vilnius, we have seen an up tick 
in public displays of intolerance.  Among a worrying number 
of examples:  African students at an American-supported 
university in Klaipeda were taunted and attacked as they 
walked to classes, an African American basketball player was 
jumped on the streets of Old Town Vilnius, a group of 
skinheads marched down Vilnius' main shopping street shouting 
xenophobic and anti-Semitic slogans, and the Government 
passed a law prohibiting those coming to work or study in 
Lithuania from bringing their non-EU national families for 
two years. 
¶6.  (C) The most immediate problem involves the GOL's 
inability to resolve post-Holocaust issues.  Congress has 
resolutions pending that would rebuke Lithuania for its 
failure to pass legislation to restitute communal Jewish 
property taken from its owners during WWII, and for its 
failure to protect an historic Jewish cemetery in downtown 
Vilnius from development and possible desecration.  The 
Kirkilas government has been remiss on both.  Despite 
repeated promises, the PM has been unwilling to bring 
restitution legislation to the parliament, and has allowed 
coalition politics and poor implementation to undermine 
nearly all of his positive decisions regarding the cemetery. 
It would be helpful to remind him that we are in an alliance 
of shared values and the GOL's continued inability or refusal 
to make real progress on these issues is damaging to our 
long-term relationship. 
¶7. (C) Energy is a topic dear to PM Kirkilas's heart. 
Nonetheless, his government has lost considerable time 
addressing Lithuania's key energy challenge:  the planned 
closure of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) at the end 
of 2009.  Lithuania agreed to the ultimate closure of this 
Chernobyl-style plant, which currently provides 70 percent of 
Lithuania's electricity, as a term of its EU accession.  With 
almost no energy links to western Europe, the closure will 
leave Lithuania wholly dependent on Russia for its power 
(either through imported electricity, or gas to supply 
gas-fired power plants).  In the two years Kirkilas has been 
in office, the GOL has spent an inordinate amount of time 
debating how to convince the EU to allow the nuclear plant to 
remain open longer (a strategy we believe has little to no 
chance of success) while making little progress in working 
with partners Estonia, Latvia, and Poland on the plans for 
building a replacement nuclear plant.  In addition to our 
support for energy security for Lithuania, two American 
companies have expressed interest in building the new plant. 
(He will have separate meetings with these companies while in 
Washington.)  We are doing all we can to promote an open 
bidding process, and to support American chances to win this 
multi-billion Euro deal. 
Visa Waiver Program 
¶8. (C) The Prime Minister will almost certainly raise 
prospects for joining the Visa Waiver Program in his 
meetings, as it is the headline-grabbing topic here among our 
bilateral issues.  Thanks to an improving domestic economy 
and vast job opportunities in the EU, we have observed a 
marked decrease in the number of Lithuanians seeking illegal 
employment in the United States.  This has dramatically 
lowered our visa refusal rate.  Lithuania is also making 
strong progress toward the other benchmarks it needs to hit 
in order to qualify for VWP. 
Missile Defense 
¶9. (C) Lithuania is ready in principle to host the MD 
interceptor site should negotiations with Poland fail.  PM 
Kirkilas may raise with you the status of out talks with 
Warsaw.  Kirkilas is concerned that he not be seen as having 
undercut the Poles. 
¶10. (SBU) FYI, the U.S. will start a NATO air policing 
rotation, based in Lithunia, October 1 for three months. 
This in an important issue for Lithuania, which sees air 
policing as a concrete example of NATO's protecting role.