Viewing cable 09VILNIUS228
Title: LITHUANIA TELLS CODEL BERKLEY: RELY ON US IN AFGHANISTAN

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
09VILNIUS2282009-04-27 10:55:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 271055Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3447
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0073
RUEHKV/AMEMBASSY KYIV 0751
RUEHSK/AMEMBASSY MINSK
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 2684
RUEHPG/AMEMBASSY PRAGUE 0302
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN 7219
RUEHSI/AMEMBASSY TBILISI 0086
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS BE
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1585
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000228 
 
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TAGS: OREP PREL PGOV ECON ENRG BO LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIA TELLS CODEL BERKLEY: RELY ON US IN AFGHANISTAN 
 
REF: VILNIUS 180 
 
¶1. Summary: Political leaders assured CODEL Berkley on its visit to 
Vilnius April 15-17 that the GOL would not falter in its efforts in 
Afghanistan despite the country's deteriorating budget situation. 
They also promised -- again -- to move forward swiftly on resolving 
longstanding problems with Jewish property restitution and 
protection of a historic Jewish cemetery site in Vilnius.  On the 
economy and the short-term outlook for energy independence, the 
Lithuanians' statements were more pessimistic.  They called for the 
West to do more to support and protect Georgia and Ukraine, and 
expressed concern that profit motives could override the West's 
political will in relations with Russia.  End summary. 
 
¶2. During two days of meetings in Vilnius en route to Prague for the 
Trans-Atlantic Legislators' Dialogue, the seven-member CODEL led by 
Rep. Shelley Berkley discussed the world financial crisis, relations 
with Russia and other neighbors, energy independence, Jewish 
property restitution and other issues with President Valdas Adamkus, 
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, parliamentary Speaker Arunas 
Valinskas and other legislators, the chief economist of Lithuania's 
largest commercial bank and leaders of the Lithuanian Jewish 
community.  Several Belarusian opposition leaders traveled to 
Vilnius to meet with the delegation.  CODEL Berkley also included 
Representatives John Carter,  Steve Cohen, Virginia Foxx, Phil 
Gingrey, Paul Kanjorski, and Ron Klein. 
 
¶3. President Adamkus, who spent most of his adult life as an 
American citizen, told the delegation Lithuania owed a deep debt to 
the United States for not abandoning it during the Soviet 
occupation.  Independence might not have been achieved in 1990 "if 
not for the support of the United States during the dark years.... 
That provided the spirit needed here to resist."  Prime Minister 
Kubilius also said Lithuania remained grateful for American support 
in those years, and called the United States "a very important 
strategic partner." 
 
------------------------------------ 
Afghanistan: Expensive, but worth it 
------------------------------------ 
 
¶4. All Lithuanian officials told the delegation members that 
Lithuania would stand with the United States and NATO and uphold its 
commitments in Afghanistan, where it leads a provincial 
reconstruction team (PRT) in Ghor Province.  "We are cutting our 
budget expenditures," Kubilius said. "But for our military mission 
in Afghanistan, we are not cutting and are trying to increase it." 
Parliamentarian Juozas Olekas, who served as defense minister in the 
government that left office late last year, said Lithuania could use 
help: "If we could get any additional funding for civilian projects 
in Ghor Province, that would be great." 
 
------------------------------------------ 
Economy: No guarantee efforts will succeed 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶5. President Adamkus told the delegation that "this is the critical 
year" for the world economy and expressed guarded optimism about 
Lithuania's economic plight.  PM Kubilius said the GOL continues to 
take unpopular but necessary steps to deal with a downward slide 
largely beyond its control.  "Sixty percent of our economy and GDP 
are based on exports.  We are very dependent on what happens in the 
EU, Russia and other places.  Now the economy is going down and we 
have no choice but to cut all expenditures.  It's not very popular 
and not very easy."  The GOL has announced its second round of 
budget cuts already this year. 
 
¶6. Gitanas Nauseda, chief economist for SEB Bank, Lithuania's 
largest commercial bank, praised the government's actions to address 
the economic crisis and said the difficulty in borrowing left it no 
choice but to cut costs.  But he also said he thought the GOL was 
"really in deep trouble" and would have no choice but to borrow from 
the IMF by summer.  Although the Lithuanian banking system is sound, 
he said, "the main problems are in the real economy:  exports and 
export competitiveness."  He forecast the start of real recovery in 
western Europe for 2010, but not until a year later in Lithuania. 
 
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Russia and the other neighbors 
------------------------------ 
 
¶7. President Adamkus told the Codel that leaders of other NATO and 
 
VILNIUS 00000228  002 OF 003 
 
 
EU countries have told him that Lithuania should refrain from 
causing friction with Russia.  But Lithuania, he said, maintains the 
best business and neighborly relations it can with Russia.  "It's 
not one of the friendliest and warmest relations, but I'd call it 
respectful."  After referring to the Russian invasion of Georgia in 
August 2008, PM Kubilius said Lithuania wanted to join with the 
United States and EU "to work with Russia to help avoid the mistakes 
they still sometimes make." 
 
¶8. Speaker Valinskas and other members of the Seimas (parliament) 
spoke more bluntly about their concerns that the EU was eager to get 
back to doing business with Russia despite Russia's failure to heed 
its commitment to withdraw to the positions it held before its 
invasion of Georgia last summer.  Economic interests are trumping 
political ones, Valinskas said, so that "now there is no certainty 
that in the future Russian tanks won't enter Tbilisi."  In a clear 
reference to Russia, Seimas foreign-affairs committee member Petras 
Austrevicius warned that the Western alliances "must not leave 
eastern Europe drifting by itself, or it will be captured 
immediately by some big, never-sleeping country."  Olekas, the 
former defense minister, was supported by vigorous nods from 
colleagues when he said Lithuania would favor expansion of NATO to 
include Georgia and -- if it wished to join -- Ukraine as well. 
 
 
------------------- 
Energy independence 
------------------- 
 
¶9. Discussing energy, President Adamkus said Lithuania was like "an 
isolated island dependent on Russia," from which it gets all of its 
natural gas and most of its oil.  The slated closure of the Ignalina 
nuclear-power plant (NPP) at the end of this year will only 
exacerbate that situation.  President Adamkus said he hoped 
construction would start by the end of 2010 on a state-of-the-art 
replacement NPP that would serve not only Lithuania but Poland as 
well.  He also said he had reached political agreement with the 
prime minister of Sweden on an undersea electrical cable, though 
technical details remained to be resolved.  Valinskas said Lithuania 
had "very little maneuverability" on energy because of its reliance 
on Russia for gas and oil and the impending Ignalina closure.  PM 
Kubilius admitted that "we are worried a little bit about energy 
supplies from Russia."  Nauseda, the banker, said Lithuania was in a 
difficult position. "Russia can take aggressive measures not through 
political or military policies, but through economic policies."  He 
also pointed out that construction of a new NPP would take at least 
a decade and "it's not sure that they'll build such a plant at 
all." 
 
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Belarus 
------- 
 
¶10.  Six leaders from Belarus' civil society and democratic 
opposition traveled to Vilnius to meet with the delegation at a 
working lunch hosted by Embassy Minsk April 16: former political 
prisoner Alyaksandr Kazulin, political party leaders Anatol 
Lyabedzka, Vintsuk Vyachorka, and Vital Rymasheuski, For Freedom 
movement deputy chair Viktar Karniyenka, and Belarusian Association 
of Journalists head Zhanna Litvina.  (Youth leader Artur Finkevich 
was stopped by Belarusian border guards and not allowed to leave the 
country, though he had a valid visa for Lithuania.)  Coincidentally, 
as the discussion took place, Czech Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg 
was delivering an invitation to Belarusian President Lukashenka to 
attend the EU's Eastern Partnership summit scheduled for May 7.  The 
Belarusians had that gesture in mind as they criticized of the 
nature of dialogue between the EU and the Government of Belarus 
(GOB), saying it did nothing but give legitimacy to the Lukashenka 
regime. 
 
¶11.  They said the EU should demand concrete and irreversible 
progress on human rights, including freedom of the press, freedom of 
association, better elections and a less restrictive legal 
environment in Belarus before agreeing to talk with Lukashenka.  The 
Belarusians expressed desire for a common U.S.-EU stance on Belarus, 
with the USG influencing the Europeans.  Belarusian Christian 
Democracy Party co-chair Vital Rymasheuski suggested that the 
current economic situation provided an opportunity for Western 
countries to offer financial assistance to the GOB in exchange for 
increased democracy and freedoms in Belarus; his views were not 
shared by his colleagues.  In general, the Belarusian participants 
praised USG efforts in Belarus, and asked that assistance to 
 
VILNIUS 00000228  003 OF 003 
 
 
independent media and the Embassy's small grants program continue. 
Rep. Berkley confirmed to the Belarusians that Congress and the new 
administration were firmly committed to democracy and human rights, 
and offered to take up the issue of Belarus with EU interlocutors. 
 
--------------------------------------- 
Jewish issues: restitution and cemetery 
--------------------------------------- 
 
¶12. Delegation members urged GOL officials to move swiftly to 
resolve the long-standing problem of restitution for Jewish communal 
property seized by the Nazi and Soviet occupiers.  Speaker Valinskas 
said the issue had been complicated by squabbling among Jewish 
groups in Lithuania.  "Please do something to make sure there is one 
person we can talk to who represents the Jewish community in 
Lithuania," he said.  Ambassador Cloud pointed out that there is 
only one elected head of the Jewish community, though there are a 
few small fringe elements that disagree with the stance of the 
national community.  Valinskas and PM Kubilius both told the 
delegation they were confident the Seimas would deal with the 
restitution issue this summer. 
 
¶13. PM Kubilius also promised quick action to permanently protect 
the site of the centuries-old Jewish cemetery in the Snipiskes area 
of Vilnius.  He said he had recently chaired a meeting of government 
officials and experts and "it is clear what we need to do," in 
conjunction with international organizations that work for 
preservation of Jewish cemeteries. 
 
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Residency law 
------------- 
 
¶14. Speaker Valinskas assured the delegation that the Seimas would 
soon change a law that requires American and other non-EU workers to 
live in Lithuania for two years before their family members can 
receive residency permits and join them. 
 
¶15. CODEL Berkley cleared this cable. 
 
CLOUD