C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 000716
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/29/2019
TAGS: PREL LH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH COMMUNITY OF DEMOCRACIES
REF: VILNIUS 708
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Damian R. Leader for reasons 1.4
(b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) SUMMARY: In her first meeting with Zygimantis
Pavilionis, the MFA's Coordinator for Lithuania's Presidency
of the Community of Democracies (CD), Ambassador Derse heard
that the current recalibration of Lithuania's foreign policy
provided an opportunity for the United States, and that
Lithuania was using its time at the helm of the CD to look
critically at its own democratic development. Pavilionis
also said that he feared Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas
would fare poorly in his personality clash with President
Dalia Grybauskaite, and promoted the idea of high-level
meetings and visits to Lithuania by USG officials. End
Â¶2. (C) Pavilionis, whose previous MFA positions have
included deputy chief negotiator for EU accession, political
director and undersecretary, told the Ambassador that debate
about the direction of Lithuania's foreign policy began about
two years before President Adamkus left office last summer.
Until then, the focus had been on Lithuania's drive to join
NATO and the EU and its integration into those organizations.
"Now the rules have changed," Pavilionis said. "We're
inside, and the question is who will have influence. The
struggle is on. We've got a generation change in Lithuania."
He said Lithuania's foreign policy was "balancing itself,
little by little," among various interests and players. He
said be believed Lithuania's leadership of the CD was playing
an important role "because it lets us look at others'
problems and think about ourselves." Western countries
pushed Lithuania to make political and other reforms as
conditions for entry into the EU and NATO, but that pressure
stopped once membership was decided, he said. He said former
Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok told him that not following
through on demands for reform was Europe's "very biggest
mistake. He told me, 'We pushed you to reform, to get in,
but then we stopped'." Because of that, Pavilionis said, "In
the last five years, we made it into the club, but we haven't
looked critically at ourselves. We were stuck." But
Grybauskaite is trying to change that. "She wants us to be a
healthy Western society from the inside, not just looking
good from the outside," Pavilionis said.
Reviving democracy promotion
Â¶3. (C) American support for the CD has helped Lithuania's
efforts to reinvigorate the organization, Pavilionis said.
"The general feeling was that something was going wrong with
democracy in this neighborhood. Russia from 2000, it's
obvious, has been going deeply into an autocratic state.
Historically, that usually ends badly for the Baltic states."
He also said there had been little or no encouraging
democratic movement in former Soviet republics such as
Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
"Mainstream Europe looked critically at this Community of
Democracies. In Europe, to talk about democracy promotion is
not very popular. But this American administration has put
democracy and rights back in front and said it shouldn't be
taken for granted or forgotten." He said, "This gives the
Lithuanian elites a chance to be part of the debate. After
just a half a year of our (CD) presidency, democracy
promotion is again something important to us."
Â¶4. (C) He said Lithuania had spoken with several CD members
about taking the lead on various topics the organization
addresses. Hungary is leading the drive to create an
International Center for Democratic Transition, he said, and
Canada also has put forth many ideas on strengthening civil
society. Italy and Chile will have the lead role on
exploring political risks of economic crisis. South Korea
and Romania will lead on regional cooperation. Pavilionis
said he hoped South Africa and the Netherlands would lead on
education for democracy. As reported reftel, Pavilionis
asked that the USG take the lead within the CD on gender
equality and other issues related to women and democracy.
USG Visitors Wanted
Â¶5. (C) Pavilionis said he hoped to attract numerous Members
of Congress to Vilnius for the 20th anniversary on March 11
of Lithuania's declaration of independence from the Soviet
Union. He said about 150 legislators from the United States
and various European countries would be invited for the
celebrations, and that he hoped a strong bipartisan
delegation from Congress would accept.
Â¶6. (C) He said Lithuania also wanted to encourage a visit
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to the Baltics by either President Obama or Vice President
Biden. "You have the same dilemma we have: whether to go to
Moscow to celebrate various events, in this case the 65th
anniversary" in 2010 of the end of World War II in Europe, he
said. "There should be a stop in Lithuania for whoever is
going to Moscow for the 65th anniversary." Pavilionis said
Antony J. Blinken, the Vice President's National Security
Advisor, had told him that the Vice President would be
willing to visit the Baltics, whether in conjunction with a
Moscow trip or not.
Â¶7. (C) Pavilionis said high-level attention also could be
important in building a relationship with President
Grybauskaite. The President, he said, is not anti-American,
but "is very much European. She wants us to make a
Scandinavian-style, vibrant, technologically open society --
European in the best sense. That is compatible with a strong
transatlantic relationship." He said the United States might
have to work to woo Grybauskaite, but the task was not
impossible. "She is independent and has a strong
personality." For Grybauskaite's expected trip to Washington
in March, "she needs a meeting with President Obama,"
Pavilionis said. The Ambassador told him that the Embassy
supported that idea and was working hard for such a meeting.
Pavilionis also said that Grybauskaite's foreign-affairs
advisor, Darius Semaska, could be a key ally in courting
Grybauskaite. "He is very much a transatlantic figure. He's
your good partner." Pavilionis said Grybauskaite is
decidedly not pro-Russia, but that Russia would work from
both the left and right sides of the political spectrum to
try to drive a wedge between Grybauskaite and the United
States. "We will have lots of attempts from various angles
to break that link," he said.
Â¶8. (C) Pavilionis said he expected changes early in the New
Year in Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius' Cabinet. "The
temperature is getting higher in Lithuanian internal
politics. (Seimas Speaker Irena) Degutiene said she
expected changes at the government level, with ministers.
She reflects the temperature within her party. The
Conservatives are unhappy with their falling popularity."
(Note: The Conservatives lead the four-party governing
coalition. After a non-coalition faction gave its support to
the 2010 budget bill earlier this month, Kubilius and others
said there would be discussions about changes in the
coalition and the possibility of that faction naming a
minister. End note.)
Â¶9. (C) Foreign Minister Usackas may be on his way out,
Pavilionis said. "There is a growing incompatibility
(between Grybauskaite and Usackas). It's not because of
their teams, but because of personality issues between the
President and the Foreign Minister. I think they'll only
continue to grow, and not to the advantage of my Foreign
Minister." (As recently as December 28, Grybauskaite
publicly rebuked Usackas for his comments on the report of
the parliamentary committee that investigated an alleged CIA
prison in Lithuania; Usackas' comments seemingly contradicted
Grybauskaite's assertion that the Seimas report had
vindicated her earlier suspicions about the prison's
existence.) Pavilionis, who admitted that he is "lobbying
hard" to become Lithuania's next ambassador in Washington,
said he hoped Usackas' conflict with Grybauskaite would not
damage his own chances. He added that Grybauskaite is
interested in pushing him for a position on new EU President
Herman Van Rompuy's staff. Pavilionis said that a successful
CD presidency would be good for him as well as for Lithuania
and for democracy.
Â¶10. (C) Pavilionis is an ambitious diplomat from a prominent
Lithuanian family (his late father Rolandas was rector of
Vilnius University and a European MP, while his mother Marija
Ausriene Pavilioniene is a Social Democrat member of the
Lithuanian parliament). He appears to be balancing himself,
so far successfully, between Usackas and Grybauskaite.
Though at one point he was believed to be seeking the foreign
minister's job before it was given to Usackas, he by all
accounts works well with the equally ambitious Usackas.
Pavilionis is the driving force behind Lithuania's active
chairmanship of the Community of Democracies, and in so doing
is furthering one of Usackas' priorities. Embassy has always
found Pavilionis well-disposed to the U.S., and we believe he
would be an effective ambassador in Washington (all the more
so given what appears to be a good relationship with
Grybauskaite). He could prove a valuable contact in Brussels
as well, should he end up working on Van Rompuy's staff.
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