Viewing cable 09VILNIUS634

09VILNIUS6342009-11-25 15:25:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius

DE RUEHVL #0634/01 3291525
P 251525Z NOV 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000634 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019 
Classified By: Ambassador Anne E. Derse for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
¶1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  The chairman of the parliamentary 
committee on foreign affairs told Ambassador Derse that 
Lithuania remains committed to development efforts and its 
PRT leadership in Afghanistan's Ghor Province, despite 
financial straitQd difficulties in attracting foreign 
donors.  He also obliquely criticized President Dalia 
Grybauskaite for her unwillingness to permit resettlement of 
any Guantanamo detainees in Lithuania, and for "reckless 
statements" that have fueled media speculation about an 
alleged CIA prison in the country.  He spoke enthusiastically 
about Lithuania's plans to help Moldova and Belarus along the 
path to democracy, but was much more pessimistic about 
relations with Russia.  He said that all of Lithuania's major 
political parties are united in their support for a strong 
relationship with the United States.  End summary. 
¶2.  (C)  The Ambassador met November 23 with Audronius 
Azubalis, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the 
Seimas (parliament) and discussed a wide range of topics. 
She thanked Azubalis for the Seimas' vote last week to extend 
the mandate of Lithuanian troops in Afghanistan, and for all 
the support Lithuania has provided for the mission in 
Afghanistan.  Azubalis said that Lithuania has had to limit 
its participation because of financial constraints, but was 
committed to fulfilling its work in Afghanistan.  He said 
that the GOL has had great difficulty finding international 
donors for development projects in Ghor, and mused that Arab 
and Muslim countries ought to be providing more aid.  He was 
pleased when the Ambassador said that the United States would 
be sending a full-time agricultural specialist to Ghor 
¶3.  (C)  The Ambassador said she had observed personally that 
Ghor was relatively stable, praising the  work of the 
Lithuanian forces there.  She told Azubalis that Washington 
colleagues recognized and appreciated the Lithuanians work in 
Afghanistan, particularly under such difficult financial 
Bilateral relationship 
¶4.  (C)  Azubalis said that although Lithuania's political 
parties often clashed, "we always cooperated very well... on 
relations with the United States."  Whether under the current 
Conservative government or the Social Democrats, now in 
opposition, "I think an absolute majority of the members of 
our parliament are in favor'' of a strong relationship.  "I 
see no difference between Social Democratic leaders and ours 
in understanding how vital is cooperation in both the 
bilateral and multilateral framework," said Azubalis, a 
Jewish issues 
¶5.  (C)  Azubalis said that there always would be some issues 
on which Lithuanian parliamentarians did not see eye to eye 
with the United States, but categorized them as minor.  He 
cited restitution of Jewish communal property as an example, 
but also said that he believed the Seimas would resolve the 
issue within the next few months.  "It's a very delicate 
issue.  The problems are in public perception rather than in 
political will."  He said the prospect of hostile media 
coverage, as well as an opinion from Seimas lawyers that said 
the compensation bill could be unconstitutional, as 
roadblocks.  He also said that passing a bill that would pay 
millions of dollars in compensation while pensions and other 
benefits are being slashed would be difficult.  "Maybe we 
should do it later, and in a precise manner that leaves no 
doubt that it is being done in accordance with the 
¶6.  (C)  The Ambassador said she understood the sensitivity 
of the issue, especially in a time of economic crisis, "but 
stressed the importance of resolving the longstanding issue 
of property restitution. 
¶7.  (C)  Azubalis said Lithuanian-Jewish relations also have 
suffered because of perceived differences over evaluations of 
the Holocaust.  "We're pushing toward an evaluation of 
totalitarian, Communist regimes, the crimes of which should 
be evaluated, as the crimes of Nazism are evaluated he said. 
But he made clear this does not mean "equating" the two. Many 
Jewish people argue that there is no comparison between the 
crimes of Stalin and Hitler, and that the effort to evaluate 
Stalinism is an attempt to diminish the importance of the 
Holocaust, he noted.  "It's absurd that we're trying to 
undermine the uniqueness of the Holocaust.  We're not.  The 
crimes have one common thing -- that they are crimes, and 
should be exposed and condemned." 
NATO and Russia 
¶8.  (C)  Azubalis said the Seimas was following with great 
interest the creation of a new strategic concept and has 
contributed views.  The Ambassador said that discussion of a 
new strategic concept for NATO would best be done quietly and 
through NATO channels, rather than through public 
pronouncements. Azubalis agreed. 
¶9.  (C)  Azubalis said Lithuania sometimes felt exposed.  "We 
are here on the periphery of the EU and NATO.  From both 
sides, we must be prepared for any provocation or unfriendly 
action."  Such actions, he said, are not only military.  He 
talked about unfavorable trade actions that Russia has taken 
recently, such as hampering entry into Russia of Lithuanian 
trucks and banning the import of many Lithuanian dairy 
products.  He said Lithuania was pushing the creation of an 
EU structure that would be able to react quickly to trade 
sanctions, because it currently takes about 15 months for the 
EU to take responsive measures. 
¶10.  (C)  The Ambassador told Azubalis that the U.S. approach 
on resetting the relationship with Russia did not involve 
costs to countries such as Lithuania.  She said the United 
States believed it could work with Russia on some issues on 
which we share interests, such as Iran and Afghanistan, while 
recognizing that there remain areas of difference.  She said 
the United States would not accede to Russia's claim of 
having an exclusive sphere of influence, and supports the 
sovereignty and independence of countries on Russia's 
periphery, such as Georgia and Lithuania. 
¶11.  (C)  Azubalis responded, "I'm a pessimist on that.  I 
saw what kind of hopes they (the Bush, Clinton and Bush 
administrations) came in with on Russia, and I wish the new 
administration the best.  But the Russians can talk with you, 
drink with you, dance with you, but they always go back in 
the end to their own way."  He said he was a realist when 
looking at the relationship between Russia and Lithuania. 
"Our business, our market are very small for them.  They 
don't need us.  I wish we could talk about equality and 
respect.  At least we should have good will, but I see a 
shortage in Russia. There is no good will." In fact, Azubalis 
said, Russia seems to be going backwards. He cited the 
example of Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Security and 
Defense Committee of the Russian Federation Council, the 
upper house of the Duma, whom he had just seen at A NATO 
Parliamentary Assembly meeting:  "I've known him for 18 
years. Before, he was open and friendly, and now he has 
changed.  He is closed, angry, tense."  Azubalis said NATO's 
Parliamentary Assembly -- in which he is chairman of the 
Lithuanian delegation -- has been the only international body 
not to have restored full relations with Russia after the 
Russia-Georgia war of August 2008.  He praised the members of 
the NATO PA, but lamented that all other organizations are 
"back to business as usual." 
The neighborhood 
¶12.  (C) Azubalis said Lithuania was well-positioned to 
assist former Soviet republics such as Moldova and Belarus in 
their transition to democracy.  "We have good experts -- 
maybe dull, but knowledgeable -- who can tell them what can 
be and should be done."  He said Lithuania, IRI  and the 
Warsaw-based secretariat of the Community of Democracies, 
which Lithuania currently chairs, plan to design training 
sessions for members of the Moldovan parliament. 
¶13.  (C)  Members of the EU hold a variety of views on 
whether sanctions on Belarus should continue, Azubalis said. 
Countries such as Germany, a large creditor, would like to 
ease or remove sanctions, he said, while others like the 
Netherlands, because of the importance they place on human 
rights, want sanctions to remain in place.  "We're someplace 
in the middle," he said of Lithuania. "We want creation of a 
roadmap, but each step should be clarified" so that 
benchmarks are reached before sanctions are ended. 
"Otherwise, it's very easy to speculate and say there is 
progress, when really there isn't." 
Guantanamo detainees 
¶14.  (C)  Azubalis was apologetic that Lithuania has not been 
able to accept one or two detainees from Guantanamo, even 
though the government had said last spring that it was 
willing to do so.  "I'm always saying each politician should 
be ready to take responsibility for his own words.  I think 
it's important to fulfill our promises.  I hope there is 
understanding that the government is ready to do this, but 
misunderstanding that some branches of our state have" about 
what a prisoner transfer would mean for Lithuania had blocked 
progress, he said, in an apparent reference to President 
Grybauskaite.  He also suggested that the United States ask 
other allies to approach Grybauskaite.  "It would be good to 
get some encouragement from other European countries that are 
willing to share" this burden. "I hope after some time, some 
way, we will find a solution." 
¶15.  (C)  Azubalis again obliquely criticized Grybauskaite, 
when he raised allegations of existence of a CIA prison in 
Lithuania.  In an October 20 press conference, he noted, 
after the initial furor over the 
media reports had died down, the president said she suspected 
the reports about the prison might be true, and urged a full 
investigation.  Azubalis said the foreign-affairs committee 
had first discussed the issue, quietly, in 2006. "Reckless 
statements can cause harm.  This is now growing like a 
snowball."  He said he was confident there is no truth to the 
allegations and he hoped the parliamentary committee would 
finish its investigation quickly.