Viewing cable 09VILNIUS711

09VILNIUS7112009-12-24 08:51:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
DE RUEHVL #0711/01 3580851
P 240851Z DEC 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000711 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/24/2019 
Classified By: Acting Deputy Chief of Mission John M. Finkbeiner for re 
asons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
¶1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  In a free-ranging discussion with the 
Ambassador, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius' new domestic 
political advisor Virgis Valentinavicius said that President 
Dalia Grybauskaite "has a lot to learn" about how politics 
work in Lithuania but is doing so quickly, that Lithuania's 
foreign policy has abandoned strident anti-Russian rhetoric 
in favor of being more of a team player in NATO and the EU, 
and that Lithuania remains a staunch ally of the United 
States.  Valentinavicius, a former journalist, also expressed 
fears of Russian influence in Lithuanian mass media and 
discussed strengths and weaknesses of various media outlets. 
He also said that Lithuanian society has much work ahead of 
it to eliminate anti-Semitism, and that progress on issues 
such as ending anti-gay discrimination can happen only slowly 
because Lithuania is a conservative and Catholic country. 
End summary. 
¶2.  (C)  Ambassador Derse met December 16 with 
Valentinavicius only days after he joined Kubilius' team as 
domestic political advisor.  He earlier had worked as a 
newspaper reporter, TV news anchor, foreign-news editor of a 
wire service and deputy head of the Lithuanian service of 
Radio Free Europe.  In addition to advising on politics, he 
said he also will help overhaul the prime minister's 
public-relations operation "because it's not very good at the 
moment."  He said Kubilius needs to stay on-message more 
often and has difficulty winning acceptance -- and credit -- 
for his actions.  "His decision line is strong and 
acceptable," Valentinavicius said, "but the presentation and 
selling it prove to be more difficult." 
Coalition is fragile 
¶3.  (C)  Valentinavicius said the ruling coalition in the 
Seimas (parliament), led by Kubilius' Conservative Party, was 
fragile.  Even within the Conservative Party, he said, 
communication can be weak and some members cannot be relied 
upon to toe the party line.  He said the split of one 
coalition member, the National Revival Party, into two 
factions has been especially problematic because their votes 
were now unpredictable.  The smaller faction has remained in 
the coalition, while the larger faction is negotiating for a 
place in the coalition.  The larger faction lent its support 
to the coalition in voting for the 2010 GOL budget this 
month, but its support was uncertain until the last minute. 
¶4.  (C)  Grybauskaite, Valentinavicius said, is a strong 
character who wants to get things done very quickly.  But he 
said she lacked knowledge of how to operate within 
Lithuania's political system, and especially with the Seimas. 
 ("Of course, it's very difficult for a rational person to 
understand and accept what the Seimas is doing," he added.) 
He said that while the president has a lot to learn about 
dealing with the Seimas, "she learns quickly and is starting 
to understand better." 
Foreign-policy realignment 
¶5.  (C)  The formation of the Kubilius government and the 
election of Grybauskaite just several months later have led 
to a fundamental shift in Lithuania's foreign policy, 
Valentinavicius said.  Under President Valdas Adamkus, he 
said, "the usual line was anti-Russian, pro-Lithuanian, 
pro-American.  But the anti-Russianism of Valdas Adamkus was 
on a rhetorical level only.  Russia is always a major 
geopolitical threat for Lithuania.  That is our pain and our 
problem.  The best way to combat this is to become as good a 
member as possible of the European Union and NATO.  For this 
we don't need anti-Russian rhetoric, we need only to be good 
Europeans and Atlanticists."  Under Adamkus, he said, 
Lithuania had the reputation of not being a reliable NATO 
member because its statements on Russia went beyond those of 
other members.  "Now the anti-Russian rhetoric has been put 
aside," which has helped Lithuania in its relations with EU 
and NATO partners.  But those strengthened partnerships have 
not come at the expense of relations with the United States, 
Valentinavicius reassured the Ambassador:  "People try to 
make the point that Lithuania now is less Atlanticist.  The 
relations with the United States are the same, but the 
oddities of the relationship with Russia have been removed 
and now we are a normal EU and NATO member." 
¶6.  (C)  Speaking of the Seimas' investigation into whether 
Lithuania hosted a CIA detention center several years ago, 
Valentinavicius said the purpose of the probe was not to 
examine anything about the relationship with the United 
States, but to look into possible illegal action by 
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Lithuanians.  "We are now in the process of resolving the 
problem of the special investigative services not having 
sufficient civilian control," he said.  "Our special services 
have a habit of taking decisions on their own.  We want to 
find the people responsible for taking decisions that have 
harmed Lithuania's international reputation." 
¶7.  (C)  He said he thought ties between the United States 
and Lithuania would always be strong.  "Automatically, people 
are interested in what our major ally and the major military 
power in the world is doing.  But that is theoretical. 
However, there have been many emigrants from Lithuania -- 
every family here has relatives in North America.  That makes 
things more personal." 
Russian influence 
¶8.  (C)  Although those personal connections bind the United 
States and Lithuania, Valentinavicius pointed out that only 
about 20 percent of Lithuanians speak English, whereas 80 
percent speak Russian.  CNN is watched by only about 2 
percent of Lithuania's population, but up to 10 percent of 
the people watch Russian channels such as Pervi Baltiskii 
Kanal.  (He said Lithuanian stations are watched by up to 25 
percent of the population.)  Beyond the influence of 
Russian-language media, he said, Russian ownership of 
Lithuanian media is a concern.  "It's a very difficult media 
situation here.  The problem is for Lithuania to have 
financially viable media outlets.  There is great fear that 
Russians could very easily invest in media here.  We already 
have the Russian bank Snoras that has shares in 'Lietuvos 
Rytas' (newspaper)," he said. 
Problems with media 
¶9.  (C)  Valentinavicius said Lithuanian media were having 
financial difficulties in part because they had grown used to 
a system in which government offices and officials paid them, 
ostensibly for advertising but actually for positive 
coverage.  "'Lietuvos Rytas' and 'Respublika' (the leading 
daily newspapers) were in the habit of living on public 
money," he said.  "The distortion of the media market was 
huge.  I don't know how to repair the damage."  He said the 
Kubilius government had largely ended the practice of 
funneling money to newspapers and expecting favorable 
reporting in return.  But the GOL does receive EU money that 
is supposed to be spent on media to advertise and promote EU 
projects.  He said the GOL is trying to come up with ways to 
spend that money fairly and well:  "We are trying to look for 
mechanisms to regulate public money pouring into media. 
There are some good things that can be done with government 
money in the media.  But in the old regime, the spending was 
done without achieving the goals.  We need to use the money 
in a transparent way and not distort the media market." 
¶10.  (C)  Most Lithuanians depend on TV as their primary news 
source, with Internet sites running a strong second, while 
print media continues to decline in importance, 
Valentinavicius said.  He cited examples of good and fair 
outlets in each medium.  For print media, he said the 
business daily 'Verslo Zinios' was the best but had a narrow 
audience.  The website '' was the strongest and 
biggest among Internet news sites and "they put pressure on 
the others to be good."  He said the private LNK and TV3 were 
the biggest television broadcasters and were politically 
neutral, but devoted only a tiny fraction of their resources 
to news.  Lithuanian public television, he said, was still 
aligned with the Social Democrats who led the previous 
government.  "They've been too much involved in politics and 
not balanced," he said.  "The director needs to be replaced, 
but that's difficult because there are many legal safeguards 
to prevent" him from being replaced for political reasons. 
¶12.  (C)  Valentinavicius said the economic crisis would 
continue to be the top priority and top challenge for the 
Kubilius government in 2010. 
Tolerance issues 
¶13.  (C)  He said communal property restitution to the Jewish 
community was also high on the GOL's agenda, even though 
passage of such a law would have political costs. 
"Politically, it is courageous in Lithuania to do that, 
because anti-Semitism is very strong, too strong for a normal 
country," he said.  "We need a lot of education to fight 
anti-Semitism in our own country.  Now we have a younger 
generation who do not remember that Jews existed here, and an 
older generation who have some anti-Semitic superstitions. 
And in between, we have 50 years of Soviet propaganda."  He 
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said the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State 
Museum was doing good work in the area of tolerance 
education, but that more was needed.  The Ambassador said the 
Embassy would do what it could to participate and assist in 
efforts to increase tolerance and fight anti-Semitism. 
¶14.  (C)  Valentinavicius also said the Seimas' consideration 
of a bill to declare information about homosexual relations 
to be harmful to minors was damaging Lithuania's 
international reputation, but said progress on such issues 
could only come slowly.  "We have some very clumsy political 
processes on that.  You have zoological homophobes and 
militant liberals," he said.  "But you can't move forward 
without taking into account that Lithuania is a very 
conservative and Catholic country.  We need to move slowly. 
Any radical resolution in the parliament is a move that 
postpones the process."