Viewing cable 09VILNIUS593

09VILNIUS5932009-11-06 15:51:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius

DE RUEHVL #0593/01 3101551
P 061551Z NOV 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000593 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/05/2019 
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Damian R. Leader for reasons 1.4 
 (b) and (d). 
¶1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Prime Minister's Chancellor Deividas 
Matulionis said November 5 that Lithuania remains committed 
to leading the Provincial Reconstruction Team in 
Afghanistan's Ghor Province, puts a high priority on NATO 
contingency planning for defense of the Baltic states, and 
has seen positive signs in relations with Belarus since 
President Aleksandr Lukashenka's September visit to 
Lithuania.  He called the GOL's effort to get its 2010 budget 
passed by the parliament "the most difficult battle in the 
history of Lithuania since 1990," but said the country has no 
alternative to deep, painful and unpopular cuts in pensions, 
social benefits and other expenditures.  End summary. 
¶2.  (U) During the Pol-Econ chief's first meeting with the 
Chancellor (akin to Chief of Staff for the PM), Matulionis 
covered a wide range of topics.  He said Lithuania remains 
"very interested in having the United States as our best 
ally.  We are very much pro-American -- the people, the 
parliament, the government and the president." 
¶3.  (C) Matulionis, like every GOL official we speak with, 
stressed that Lithuania remains steadfast in its commitment 
to completing the responsibilities it has taken on in 
Afghanistan. "We have financial difficulties, but we will not 
let that stop us from continuing to lead the PRT in Ghor 
Province," Matulionis said.  "Afghanistan is our major and 
only priority in international affairs at the moment."  He 
said he was glad to hear that U.S. and Afghan government 
contributions apparently would cover the cost of paving the 
Chaghcharan airport runway.  "That is a very, very important 
point.  We are reducing our development amount, 
unfortunately.  To have any credibility with the Afghan 
people, we have to move forward with some concrete project." 
He also said he was pleased to hear that the United States 
would send a significant delegation to the RC-West conference 
the Foreign Ministry will host in Vilnius on December 8-9. 
Baltic defense planning 
¶4.  (C) The first issue raised by the chancellor was the need 
for NATO to complete contingency plans for defense of the 
Baltic states.  "This is very, very important to us," he 
said.  We told Matulionis that we have made sure officials in 
Washington and in other NATO countries are aware that the 
lack of defense planning for the Baltics  was not just a 
theoretical concern, but something Lithuania considered a 
real vulnerability.  Matulionis said he appreciated that 
support; Lithuania needs not only the actual plans to be 
completed, but the "political blessing" of all NATO members 
for the plans to have real meaning. 
Eastern neighbors 
¶5.  (C) Lithuania maintains close relations with Belarus 
because it wants to help guide the adjoining country onto a 
course of democratic development, Matulionis said.  "We have 
to show that we're not saying 'no' to Belarus. We have to 
extend the helping hand."  Following Belarusian President 
Lukashenka's September visit -- his first in more than a 
decade -- Lithuania has seen positive signs in the areas of 
transport, energy and business-to-business contacts.  He said 
there also has been visible progress on the political side, 
"because they see us as ones who can speak for them in all 
international forums."  And while it welcomed the visit by 
Lukashenka, the GOL also maintains close contacts with the 
Belarusian opposition.  He said the GOL did not believe 
Belarus was going to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as 
independent states at this time, but said the Government of 
Belarus could be unpredictable as it tried to balance its 
relations with Russia and the West. 
¶6.  (C) Relations between Lithuania and Russia appear to be 
improving somewhat, Matulionis said, but real change is 
stymied by a question of history: how to view the Soviet 
Union's move into Lithuania near the start of World War II. 
"If Russia would recognize that it was an occupation by the 
Soviet Union in 1940, that would really be a breakthrough, a 
positive sign.  Maybe with President Medvedev that might be 
possible; he's said some interesting things about Russian 
history."  He also said Medvedev "would be much easier to 
cooperate with" than Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  "He's 
much more reform oriented, much more liberal, not affiliated 
with the KGB."  Matulionis said it was hard to know how much 
power Medvedev actually held.  "There are disagreements 
between the President and Prime Minister (Putin). Are they 
artificial or are they real? What does it mean?  Nobody can 
know or understand what is happening in the Kremlin." 
President and Prime Minister 
¶7.  (C) Prime Minister Kubilius and President Grybauskaite 
get along well and largely have a shared vision for dealing 
with Lithuania's current economic woes, Matulionis said.  "We 
cooperate on everything," he said of the two officials' 
staffs.  That has been a blessing in difficult economic 
times, he said, because if the president and prime minister 
could not work together to bring Lithuania out of crisis, the 
results would be disastrous. 
Budget battle 
¶8.  (C) Matulionis said getting the 2010 budget passed by the 
Seimas (parliament) will be "the most difficult battle in the 
history of Lithuania since 1990."  Budget cuts will be deep 
and affect all segments of society, including those who 
receive pensions and other benefit payments.  "Opposition 
parties are playing with this, but there is no way out."  He 
said the GOL was proud to have worked out a framework 
agreement on the budget between the government, business 
associations and national labor unions, but said "that 
doesn't guarantee swift movement in the parliament on the 
¶9.  (C) If the 2010 budget is not passed and the GOL has to 
continue following the 2009 budget, Lithuania would be in 
trouble as early as February because it could not afford the 
social benefits in that budget, and the deficit would spiral 
out of control. 
Jewish issues 
¶10.  (C) Matulionis said the GOL remains committed to its 
plan to provide compensation to the Jewish community for 
communal property seized by the Nazi and Soviet occupation 
regimes.  But because of the budget situation, the GOL has 
asked the Seimas legal committee to delay consideration of 
the bill until early 2010, after the budget has been 
considered.  "This would be suicide, to put this bill before 
the parliament at this time," Matulionis said.  "It also 
would not be good for the Jewish community, when people are 
crying about cuts in pensions and social benefits and the 
government is talking about paying 
millions for compensation for buildings." 
H1N1 flu preparations 
¶11.  (C) Despite the current flu outbreak in western Ukraine 
and the announcement that H1N1 flu has sickened dozens of 
cadets at a military academy in Vilnius, Matulionis said the 
threat of H1N1 flu is completely exaggerated and that the 
number of people affected by it in Lithuania is very small. 
The GOL has allocated money to increase its stocks of 
antiviral medications, but has made no decision yet on 
whether to buy H1N1 vaccine.  He said the Ministry of Health 
has said that the H1N1 flu is no more lethal than seasonal 
flu.  Lithuania has reported 68 confirmed cases of H1N1. 
That number includes six of the military cadets who were 
tested for the virus, but excludes 40 or more others who were 
not tested.