Archive for June, 2008
Probably most of you heard about the anti-missile defence plan for Europe. In short anti-missile radar should be deployed in the Czech Republic, and an interceptor base in Poland. The Czech Republic has already said it will allow deployment of radars in its territory, however talks are still in the works with Poland on the interceptor base.
As the BNS reminds Washington wants to equip special platforms for ten interceptor missiles in Poland. In exchange for its approval, Poland would like for the US to help modernize the Polish Armed Forces, i.e. equip them with anti-aircraft defence systems Patriot-3 and THAAD.
However, the Time announce yesterday; ‘U.S. plans for a missile defence system (MDS) in Europe could be delayed well beyond the 2013 target because Defence Department experts say the interceptors have not been adequately tested.’ This must be a big blow not only for President Bush but also for the Central Europe and for the Baltics. Well Poland and Lithuania in particular.
Further more, the last week brought some confusion between the strategic allies of Lithuania and Poland over the planned MDS in Poland. The USA, the other strategic ally of the both countries caused this confusion all together.
As the BNS wrote the Polish Foreign Vice-Minister Wasczykowski claimed last Wednesday that the US is holding talks with Lithuania over potential deployment of elements of an anti-missile shield in its territory in case talks with Poland on the issue were discontinued. The Polish official also claimed that the Lithuanian Minister of Defence, Mr Olekas himself offered the Americans Lithuania as an alternative to Poland.
Once the news from Poland reached Lithuania the official denunciations of the fact of negotiations between the US and Lithuanian followed.
PM Kirkilas stressed, “Lithuania is not holding any talks”. Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Vaitiekunas claimed, “No official negotiations on the project are being conducted. Informal conversations take place on a daily basis on various levels.” However, as the BNS noted that the minister refused to discuss whether Lithuania would volunteer as an alternative to Poland, if the US failed to agree with the Lithuanian neighbouring country.
The Minister of Defence Mr Olekas also assured that “There are no talks. We are not speaking on this issue”. However he added, “If we received such proposal, we would have to weigh the pros and cons”. He said the US senior negotiator John Rood assured Lithuanian leaders about the course of the negotiations with Poland during his visit in Vilnius in May. Furthermore the minister stated; “We are observing the process because the anti-missile defence shield is important for the safety of Europe, the United States and Lithuania. We hope that our partners in Poland and the US will successfully close the talks”.
It is unclear what actually happened, however the Lithuanians have a saying ‘there is no smoke without a fire’. It seems that the Americans themselves leaked to the Lithuanian media about the Mr. Rood’s visit to Vilnius in May. Most likely the purpose of that was to push the Poles to accept the deal proposed by Washington regarding the MDS in Poland.
I am not sure if such tactics will work. But it is certain that the Poles feel betrayed by the strategic partners in Vilnius and this will have its consequences in the future relations between Lithuania and Poland. We also could be sure that the Russians will retaliate against Lithuania, they might start with further increase of the gas prices which are already more expensive that to Germany. There could be more moves to disrupt the new nuclear plant project in Lithuania also. I am sure the Russians have much more under the sleeve.
As the Time noted ‘It would mean vital decisions would have to be put off until long after a new president takes office in January – either John McCain, who strongly supports missile defence, or Barack Obama, who has been more sceptical.’ Hence, it seems that all that fire was burned for nothing; however, the smell of smoke might stay for a very long time.
67 years ago, in June 14 1940 the Soviets began the massive Deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia. In one week 17. 730 (a size of an average Lithuanian town) were deported to Altay, Krasnoyarsk, Kirov, Novosibirsk, Omsk and Koma.
The deportations started in one time between 3 and 4 am. The chosen were the intellectuals and academics, political activists, businessman and successful farmers, medics, lawyers, military, teachers, religious leaders. One third of them were children up to 16 years. One household in one hour could gather 100 kg of belongings and were escorted to the train stations. In 57 stations across the country 1202 cattle train carriages were used to transport them to Siberia. Most affected areas were those of Vilnius and Kaunas cities, and that the Šiauliai county.
The Kremlin planned to deport around 50% of the Lithuanian population but the Nazis obstructed those plans for 4 years. No wander that the Lithuanians greeted the Nazi solders as the saviours.
However, the deportations resumed after the Nazi occupation was replaces by the Soviet occupation in 1944. 1948 saw the largest amount of deportations to Siberia. 40.002 were deported just in one year, 11.066 out of those were children. Just to compare Marijampolė, the 7th largest Lithuanian city has 47.000 dwellers. However, to achieve the objective of deporting 50% of the Lithuania’s population prevented Stalin’s death in 1953.
It is calculated that every third Lithuanian was physically affected by the Soviet repressions between 1940 to 1953. Just in 13 years Lithuania lost almost a one third of its population (around 800.000 out of 3.5 million) through deportations, partisan war, emigration and holocaust. In comparison the Lithuanian capital Vilnius has over 550.000 of dwellers and the second largest Kaunas has about 370.000. Hence, we are talking about a population of the two largest country cities vanishing in 13 years.
As the first deportation week in June 1941 indicated the Soviets decided to break the nation’s spine by deporting the best of the best. The cream of the nation was lost irreplaceably.
Those are only statistics, but the human tragedies behind it are heart breaking. I had a chance to participate in an expedition to Siberia, the Irkutsk region back in 1989 and see it with my one eyes were the Lithuanian deportees perished. Even meeting some of them still there, who due to many circumstances never managed to return to Lithuania. Only one question was asked ‘WHY?’
I would like to ask another question. What is the difference between the Soviet and the Nazi atrocities? What is the difference between a Frenchmen or an Norwegian victim who fallen from the Nazi bullet and between a Lithuanian or a Latvian who fallen from the Soviet bullet or frozen to death in Siberia? Does that mean that the Nazi victims are ‘privileged’ to be classified as the real victims but not the Soviet victims? Especially those from the Soviet occupied countries. I would be arrested if I would wear the swastika on my T-shirt in Vienna, however none would even raise an eyebrow if I would wear a T-Shirt with Stalin’s portrait, the KGB letters and the hummer and sickle!
Why Germany had to acknowledge its atrocities and compensate to the victims and the USSR’s successor Russia doesn’t? Would post Nazi Germany remained a danger to Europe if it did not understood its history and made appropriate conclusions? Yes, it would. Is Russia, which is refusing to repay and say apologies to its victims, who is revising its history, which has brought the Soviet National anthem and made it to the Russian one, which is constantly harassing its Baltic neighbours is a potential danger to the region’s stability?
The Western historians constantly reminding us that it is essential to study the atrocities of the Nazism, since we must remember it. ‘Never again!’ they correctly notice. Some Westerners and the Russian politicians are calling the Lithuanians and the other victims of Communism to forget their past and live for future. Having lived through the Soviet occupation recently and observing the latest political trends in Russia we are saying: we must remember what happened to us, it is our duty, so we can also say ‘Never again!’. That is for Russia’s sake and ours.
One of the issues relevant only to Lithuania is widely discussed in the world. Due to a large Lithuanian Diaspora abroad the Lithuanian Dual Citizenship is heatedly discussed from Australia to Canada, from Norway to South Africa. In the USA alone some 1 mln are claiming to be of the Lithuanian descent. Only in the last 18 years some 400.000 have left Lithuania for a short time or for a good. Having in mind the tragic Lithuania’s demographical situation it would be logical to encourage the Lithuanians abroad to maintain their link to Lithuania. Nevertheless, some political groups for various reasons don’t want that.
The Constitution currently allows dual citizenship as rare exceptions, however this issue is especially relevant to Lithuanians living abroad, as by accepting citizenship of their country of residence, they are deprived of their right to a Lithuanian passport.
In the autumn of 2006, the Constitutional Court found that the country’s main law provides for dual citizenship as rare exceptions, declaring laws allowing dual citizenship as running counter the Constitution.
However, today the Seimas Human Rights Committee approved a provision to the new Citizenship Law by allowing a possibility of dual citizenship to Lithuanians who are not only European Union (EU) passport holders, but also those of NATO member states.
According to the BSN, the committee’s Chairman Arminas Lydeka noted that this is not the only group, which will be granted the possibility of holding passports of two countries, i.e. Lithuania and some other country, adding that there a seven such clauses, therefore countrymen not living in a country pertaining to either NATO or the EU community, would also be allowed dual citizenship under certain circumstances.
Political deportees and prisoners as well as three generations of their descendants make up a separate group of people, who will be granted the right to hold a Lithuanian passport as well as that of their country of residence. Lydeka noted that this provision is especially relevant to Lithuanians living in Russia, Kazakhstan and other countries, where Lithuanians ended up after deportations implemented in the then Soviet Union.
The third group of persons to be allowed dual citizenship encompasses those, who left Lithuania during the Soviet rule (1940-1990) as well as three generations of their descendants.
“This is of most relevance to persons of Lithuanian descent living in Australia, Germany, and, of course, those living in the United States of America”, Lydeka told BNS.
The fourth group is composed of traditionally numerous communities of people of Lithuanian descent living in countries sharing a common border with Lithuania. , i.e. Lithuanians living in Belarus, Poland and Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave will also have the right to dual citizenship.
Dual citizenship will also be retained by citizens already holding passports of two countries, granted in by special decree of the president. This is the fifth group provisioned in the law.
The sixth group, BNS remained, is composed of the offspring of Lithuanian citizens. The committee agreed that offspring born to Lithuanian citizens in any part of the world will be granted the right to hold both a Lithuanian passport and that of the country of residence. This provision is relevant to children of Lithuanians living in Ireland or the US, as they apply the so called soli principle, meaning that a person acquires citizenship of that country by birth in its territory, regardless of the will of their parents. On the other hand, according to Lithuanian legislation prior to the validation of this law, the young Lithuanians automatically were deprived of the possibility of getting a Lithuanian passport.
And finally, the last and seventh group would theoretically consist of Lithuanians living in any nation, which would sign an international agreement with Lithuania, foreseeing that their citizens living in Lithuania would be granted the right to hold its passport, in exchange for the same right to be granted to Lithuanians living in the country in question. Lithuania has no agreements of a similar nature with any other country at this point.
A draft bill earlier prepared by a taskforce composed by the Seimas directorate provisioned that the first group of persons with a right to dual citizenship would consist only of Lithuanians, who are EU passport holders, however this provision infuriated Lithuanians living abroad, who felt discriminated. Hence, it is a good start, lets wait and see!
As the BNS informed the Czech-Moravia Football Federation officially apologized to the Lithuanian Football Federation and Lithuania’s Embassy in Prague for playing the national anthem of Lithuania’s neighbouring Baltic State Latvia during a friendly match between the Lithuanian and Czech national teams.
Czech news agency CTK announced that the Czech team’s Spokesman Vaclav Tichy resigned May 28 thus taking responsibility for the incident, with his assistant having been let go as well.
As the BNS writes instead of the Lithuanian national anthem, Tuesday’s aforementioned match with 15,000 fans sounded with the Latvian one, and the program’s flyers included the Latvian flag and the Latvian team’s picture, accordingly.
It would be interesting to find out if the Czech footballers new that they are playing not Latvians but Lithuanians, and when they realised that? Also I would love to ask if the Czechs were preparing to play with the Lithuanians or the Latvians, since both of those teams are rather different.
Furthermore, maybe the Europeans should stop making the jokes about G.W. Bush how could not make a distinction between Slovenia and Slovakia… Still, it could have been much worse if instead of the Latvian flag the flags from Laos or Lesotho would have appeared. Those countries also start with letter ‘L’.