Posts filed under ‘Central Europe’
The Lithuanian media announced that the Polish PKN Orlen is considering selling Orlen Lietuva refinery (former Mazeikiu Nafta) if it will fail to secure control over Klaipedos Nafta oil terminal.
According to the Polish daily Parket the most logical buyer of Orlen Lietuva would be a company from Russia. The paper quoted Pawel Burzinski, an analyst from BZ WBK saying, ‘”The sale of Mazeikiai is a very possible development if it will emerge that PKN Orlen has failed to agree with Lithuania’s Government. The sale of Mazeikiu Nafta may be launched by the decision of the concern’s (PKN Orlen) board.”
Mr Burzinski thinks that the sell off scenario could be such that in the first stage of it some 10-30 pct of Orlen Lietuva could be offered to an investor with an option of increasing its stake to more than 50 pct. In analysts’ opinion, then, the PKN Orlen eventually will withdraw from the shareholders of Orlen Lietuva.
Lithuania’s Government, on the other, regards the Klaipedos Nafta as a strategic object and has not intention of selling it to any other company. According to the TV3 programme Savaites komentarai on 24 January, the Polish PKN Orlen is planning to sell Orlen Lietuva to Russia’s Lukoil. However, the Russians would buy Orlen Lietuva only if the company ‘Klaipedos Nafta’ is included into the ‘package’.
An online Global Museum on Communism is being launched on Tuesday in view of shedding a light on the history of the Soviet regime and the inherent crimes against humanity, and commemorating victims of the regime writes BNS.
The Lithuanian government was among donors that contributed to the project in question, earmarking 15,000 litas (EUR 4,300). The website launch will be webcast on Tuesday evening from the US capital Washington.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas says that such projects help the humanity retain the historic memory, loss of which makes “reconciliation impossible.”
“We cannot forget the crimes against the humanity committed by the two largest totalitarian regimes of the 20th century – Fascism and Stalinism. Symbolically, the project is being launched this year, which does not only mark 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall but also 70 years since the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact,” Usackas told BNS on Tuesday in comment of the project.
Victims of the Communist regime and their families will be invited to register in the website and share their experience. The museum will also feature papers by historians, also film recordings from key historic events.
The project was initiated by a Washington-based Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, established in December of 1993 by the US Congress in view of immortalizing the memory of those fallen victim to communism and those who fought to resist it.
Project donors include governments of other Eastern European states as well as private foundations and individual contributors.
The Lithuanian government previously allocated funds to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation back in 2007 for an underway memorial in Washington erected to pay homage to victims of the regime.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus has assured Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and the Estonian President Thoomas Ilves that the media had distorted his words about the allegedly different importance of Russia and Lithuania.
In a letter to Lithuania’s president, Klaus maintains that he did not tell the Lidove Noviny daily that Russia needed more attention than Lithuania and Estonia. The Czech president said he, in fact, stressed the need to be more watchful of Russia than of Lithuania.
“I do not see Russia as a threat, I see Russia as a big, strong, ambitious country, which is certainly necessary to be watchful of more than – to give an example – small Estonia or Lithuania,” the Czech president cited his statement at the summit of European Union (EU) and Russia in Siberia.
Meanwhile, media publications appeared after Klaus’ interview, suggesting that Russia needed more attention than other EU members, such as Lithuania and Russia.
“I never said that it is necessary to pay more attention to Russia than to the EU member states. To pay attention and to be watchful are not entirely different statements. As you know from our talks, I do not demonize Russia. There is no doubt that the Czech Republic should “be watchful of Russia” more that of your country, for example, which we consider close and very friendly. I am also convinced that also for Lithuania Russia is a country you are more watchful of than, for example, the Czech Republic,” reads the letter.
Klaus stressed he viewed Lithuania as an important partner, assuring that he attached major importance to good relations between the Czech Republic and Lithuania.
The Czech President Vaclav Klaus has responded to statement made by the President of Estonia Mr Ilves’ statement to his interview to the Czech paper Lidove Noviny. In this interview Mr Klaus mentioned Russia and the Baltic States and was misinterpreted as saying that the focus should be made on Russia rather than European Union (EU) member-states, such as Lithuania or Estonia. I do not know how Mr Ilves responded but the President of Lithuania Mr Adamkus was disappointed with his Czech counterpart statement.
However, the Czech President Klaus have written a letter of explanation to the Estonian President regarding this misunderstanding. Read the letter bellow. However,I am not sure if Mr Klaus after this letter will not be obliged to write apologetic letter to the Latvian President Zetlers…
Esteemed Mr President,
I am writing in response to your remarks that were reported by the AFP news agency and were to comment on my interview for Lidove Noviny of 16 May 2009. I know that the media frequently distort and misinterpret statements by both of us. However, it is very important to me that we should know each other’s authentic views and that we find the maximum possible degree of mutual understanding.
In the aforementioned interview for the Czech daily Lidove Noviny, I replied as follows to a question concerning Russia as a threat to Central Europe: “I do not view Russia as a threat, I view Russia as a big, strong, ambitious state and one definitely needs to be more on guard vis-à-vis such a big, strong, and ambitious state than vis-à-vis the small Estonia or Lithuania, to make a random comparison.”
I have never divided countries into “important and less important” ones and I did not do so in the aforementioned citation, either. I find it therefore difficult to believe that you actually read my statement before reacting to it in the media.
I am not demonizing Russia. There is no doubt that it is a big, strong, and ambitious state. And there should not be any doubt either about the fact that the Czech Republic ought to be “more on guard” vis-à-vis that country than, for instance, vis-à-vis Estonia, which we consider a close and very friendly country. I am convinced that for Estonia, too, Russia is a country, vis-à-vis which it is “on guard” to a greater extent than, for instance, vis-à-vis the neighbouring Latvia or vis-à-vis the Czech Republic.
I would like to stress that I consider Estonia the Czech Republic’s important partner. I am confident that we both will have an opportunity to contribute to a further reinforcement of relations between our countries and I want to assure you that I care very much about good Czech-Estonian relations. It is also for this reason that I decided to write this personal letter to you.
With friendly greetings,
Lithuanian President Adamkus finds it difficult to believe that his Czech counterpart could have said that the focus should be made on Russia rather than European Union (EU) member-states, such as Lithuania or Estonia as the BNS writes.
Adamkus told journalists on 21 May that every EU nation should be equally important in the community and, in his words, this was the case until now.
“Therefore it is difficult to believe the Czech president’s statement because in official summits the Czech Republic has been respectful towards Lithuania. It is difficult to comment without seeing full text. It is unbelievable that such statement was made,” said the Lithuanian leader and the BNS informs.
Vaclav Klaus, president of EU’s presidency the Czech Republic, told a daily newspaper Lidove Noviny in Siberia before the EU-Russia summit that he did not view Russia as a threat but as a large, strong and ambitious country that needed more attention than EU’s members, such as Lithuania or Estonia.
Klaus is known for his Euro-skeptical views and statements that draw controversial comments on the international arena.
As the BNS writes the Lithuanian President Adamkus was critical of US President Obama’s speech delivered in Prague for its lack of novelty. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Usackas, on the other hand, said the speech was substantial, even if Obama didn’t specifically address the security of Lithuania and the Baltic States.
According to the BNS speaking to members of the press following the European Union (EU) – US summit the Lithuanian president said he’d heard various feedback on the speech, but felt openly critical himself.
“I expected more from the president’s speech as it was advertised and presented as one of America’s prime foreign policy speeches in Europe. I heard nothing in that speech of any new benchmarks or a complete makeover in America’s policy. (…) So in that sense, I feel differently than those who were blindly in awe, almost dizzy with the novelty of the information. I can appreciate the president’s speech, points were made, but personally, as one who follows foreign policy, I heard nothing new,” Adamkus spoke.
Obama did state the necessary, i.e. that the Americans will not succumb to principles, that it is necessary to hold talks with Russia and continue dialogue – one that is reciprocal, said Adamkus, however noting that the US president’s other statements had already been voiced.
Meanwhile, BNS continues Usackas found Obama’s speech consequential, even if it contained no specific provisions on the security of Lithuania and the Baltic countries. The US Head of State in his Prague’s speech reiterated Europe as being US’ closest partner, noted Usackas.
“Obama’s speech was general in nature, it contained key provisions on disarming and EU and NATO solidarity. I believe this speech to be an important step towards disarming and maintaining the EU-US partnership,” said the Lithuanian foreign minister.
Usackas was elated by thoughts in the US president’s speech, such as that all NATO states must have defense plans for new challenges ahead and that NATO’s security is undivided.
“What was very important, both in Obama’s speech in Prague and the NATO summit, was the notion that all members of the Alliance should share the same level of security,” said Usackas.
Usackas noted to the BNS that the United States in the EU-US summit in Prague voiced support to the EU Eastern Partnership Initiative – a new stage in relations binding the EU and six Eastern European countries from Belarus to Georgia.
On March 9 the Veidas weekly magazine has published an article about the US missile shield in Europe.
The talks between the US, Poland, and the Czech Republic over the US antimissile defense shield, which lasted for eight years, have failed, and now the two countries are forced to calculate their financial and political losses.
“Russia is very pleased with the US’ determination to yield and to abandon the plans to deploy the antimissile defence shield in Central Europe” — this is how senior Russian Foreign Ministry officials responded to a secret letter that US President Barack Obama sent to Dmitry Medvedev. According to The Times, in the letter, an unexpected compromise was proposed: “We (the US) will abandon the antimissile defence shield plans, if you (Russia) will not to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad and will support our actions against Iran.”
However, the sharp change in the US position, which brought joy to some, seriously irritated others. “We were seduced and abandoned,” “the US betrayed not only us, but also its own convictions,” this is how the Poles and Czechs assessed the same development. They definitely have grounds for such an assessment.
Diplomats of the two Central European countries were negotiating with the US over deploying the antimissile defence shield on their territories for eight years – since 2001. At the end of last year, preliminary agreements were signed. They stipulated that by 2013 the US would deploy ten antimissile radars, worth approximately $4.5 billion. The talks were exceptionally hard, because, above all, they irritated Russia. Because of the talks, the ties between Russia and the two countries, which were not ideal to begin with, got even worse. After all, Russia viewed the antimissile defence shield, which was supposed to be directed against Iran, as a threat to Russia’s national security. Last year, Vladimir Putin threatened to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad and directed them at Poland.
Moreover, the antimissile defence shield issue divided the public in the two countries and reduced trust in the governments of those countries. Polls showed that approximately 50 percent of Poles and even 70 percent of Czechs did not support their governments’ talks with the US. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski was gloomy in talking about the situation: “We paid a hefty political price for the talks, and now it turned out all of this was unnecessary.”
“Many people were involved in the negotiations process, and now they fell disappointed or even betrayed,” Andrzej Jodkowski, head of the Polish branch of the US antimissile defence shield proponents’ alliance, said.
Would the Promises Be Kept?
By the way, the US promised not only to deploy the antimissile defence shield in the Czech Republic and Poland, but also to help and assist those countries in other ways. For example, the Czech Republic was offered closer cooperation with the US in the area of science, and Poland was promised the antimissile air defence system Patriot and a few US military units. Moreover, Poland was also supposed to receive financial assistance to modernize its military resources.
Now, however, as the US is changing its position on the necessity of deploying its radars in Poland and the Czech Republic, the two countries are in a limbo and do not know if the US will fulfil at least some of its earlier promises.
“The most important thing for us, the Poles, is to know whether the agreements with the US that were signed last year will be honored,” Polish Defence Minister Bogdan Klich said.
US officials assure that for now no agreements (not even the agreements related to the deployment of the antimissile defence shield) have been rescinded. “I would be surprised, if Obama’s administration simply withdrew the agreements that were signed between Poland and the Czech Republic and President George Bush’s administration,” Andrew Kuchins, head of the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, said in trying to reduce tensions.
Obama No Longer Needs the Shield
Why did Obama change the US position on the antimissile defence shield so suddenly? After all, for Bush this was almost a priority issue, and his diplomats put in a lot of effort and energy into the talks with Poland and the Czech Republic.
The first hints that Obama was not too exited about the antimissile defence shield, or actually about the possibility of irritating Russia, were heard during the NATO defence ministers’ meeting, which was held in February in Krakow. During the meeting, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates mentioned that Washington was going to reassess the missile plan “in the context of the US’ ties with Poland and the Czech Republic as well as in the context of NATO’s relations with Russia.”
Second signal the US was having some doubts regarding the antimissile defence shield were heard during the Munich security conference, when Vice President Joe Biden said his famous phrase about “restarting” the ties between the US and Russia. Back then there was talk he had in mind possible negotiations between the US and Russia over the antimissile defence shield system, because Russian President Medvedev unexpectedly announced Russia was prepared to abandon the plans to deploy Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, if the US was also prepared to make a step toward a compromise.
Finally, last weak it was publicly announced about Obama’s letter to the Russian president. For now the plans to completely abandon the antimissile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic have not been confirmed or denied, but there are more and more signs that in the near future the shield will not be deployed here.
Source BBC Monitoring
Obama’s letter to Medvedev on a bid to swap missile defence for curbing of Iran – analysis of the Lithuanian political scientist
The United States’ proposal to give up its missile defence plans in Eastern Europe in return for Russian assistance in curbing Iran’s possible nuclear weapon ambitions gave a headache to Moscow, says Lithuanian political scientist Kestutis Girnius the BNS writes.
In his words, Eastern Europe, the initial planned deployment site of the missile defence system elements, should not worry about fewer US security guarantees.
US daily, the New York Times, said on March 3 that US President Barack Obama had sent an allegedly secret letter to his Russian colleague, Dmitry Medvedev, envisaging a possibility of swapping the missile defence system in Europe for cooperation against Iran’s ambitions to build nuclear weapons.
Girnius, a lecturer at the Vilnius University’s International Relations and Political Science Institute, told BNS that the letter was not likely to be secret, adding that leaking of its content as a conscious and serious move by the United States.
“First of all, I would say that the term “secret” used by the New York Times is a bit imprecise. I believe that many diplomatic letters are secret – we do not know the content of letters of our prime minister or our president. The handing of the letter to Russia by a diplomat does not necessarily mean the secrecy of the content but, instead, underlines that Obama views the letter as very serious and worthy of attention. I would not be surprised to find out that Obama’s people intentionally leaked it in order to put pressure upon Russia,” said Girnius.
In his opinion, the BNS writes, it actually puts pressure upon Moscow to take specific steps in line with its interests to keep the Czech Republic and Poland free of the missile defence system elements – radars and interceptor missiles. Russia has warned to deploy missile systems Iskander in Kaliningrad, a small enclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland – in case Washington does not give up its missile system plans in Europe. Both Lithuania and Poland are members of the EU and NATO.
“Indeed, its an attempt to tell Russia: “Look, we are building the shield because we see a threat in Iran. If you help us eliminate the threat, there will be no missile defence system and no threat to you. If you rare really worried about missile defence, do not threaten to deploy Iskander but join the efforts to put a check on Iran’s intentions of creating nuclear weapon. If you don’t take the steps, it will mean you are engaged in propaganda.” I believe it is not indulgence but statement of logical positions. They are pressuring Russia to respond properly,” Girnius told BNS.
In his words, as BNS wrote, the goal of the missile defence system is to protect Europe and the United States against possible missiles from Iran, therefore, the debates to give up the deployment plans, with Russia’s assistance against Iran, do not mean sacrificing or swapping Eastern Europe’s security interests.
“The decision not to build the shield would mean sacrificing Eastern Europe’s interests only if it was originally aimed against Russia, while America has always said this was not the case. Nevertheless, Eastern Europe may not like such wayward opinions as making them look as fools. By holding talks with the United States and agreeing, administrations of the Czech Republic and Poland sacrificed part of their political capital and electorate,” the political scientist argued.
In his opinion, the “hawks” in Eastern Europe may attempt to claim that such changes of plans of the United States undermined security guarantees, however, the main security guarantees remain, just as the US and NATO promises and commitments to protect.
BNS continues, friendlier communication between Russia and the United States, lower tensions between the East and the West without any indulgence to Moscow, in Girnius’ words, better answers the interests of Lithuania. In his opinion, the discussions to give up the missile defence system plans did not mean indulgence to Russia.
“If I were in the shoes of Eastern Europeans, I would not be concerned – absence of the shield means no additional target for Russians, and if the shield is there its operation and reliability will not be clear. (…) Giving up a very costly and not necessarily an efficient weapon is a smart thing to do. (…) I see this move of Obama as more constructive, as compared with the earlier US administration,” said Girnius.
In his words, the changed US plans would be a puzzle to Russia, which may procrastinate its reply.
“To my view, such proposal to Russia is a clearly bigger headache. I believe the shield was a perfect tool for slapping America and saying: “Look how aggressive it is, it ignores our interests and does not allow creation of a unified Europe.” (..) I’m almost certain that Russia will procrastinate (its response) and try to get more. We will see how much patience the US will show. Much will depend on the developments in Iran,” Girnius told BNS.
The first President Medvedev’s address attracted probably as much attention as the newly elected USA President in Vilnius. The attention was concentrated not on the Russia’s President’s proposals regarding the internal Russia’s reforms. The biggest concern is the Russian missiles in Kaliningrad.
As the BNS noted the Russian leader did not specify the number of missiles and whether they would be armed with nuclear warheads, adding radio-electronic neutralization of the US shield elements would be carried out from the Kaliningrad territory.
On August 15 the US and Poland signed a preliminary agreement on placement of defence shield elements in Poland. An analogous treaty was signed with the Czech Republic earlier this year.
The BNS reminds that Washington plans to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland in the 2011-2013 period and build a radar station in the neighbouring Czech Republic. The facilities will supplement the already operational missile defence system, with elements deployed in the United States, Greenland and Great Britain.
Washington says that the shield, development of which was supported by all 26 members of NATO, is intended to serve as protection from possible missile attacks from “villain countries,” particularly Iran.
After signature of the treaty, Russian officials have made informal statements about Russia for the first time after the end of the cold war considering the possibility of deploying arms with nuclear warheads in its Baltic Fleet in the Kaliningrad region wedged between Lithuania and Poland. The nuclear warheads may be supplied to the fleet’s submarines, cruisers and bombers.
Lithuania’s Presidential Palace issued a statement saying that: “Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is difficult to understand as his words are mutually conflicting. The President talks about the commitment to act together against our common threats but sends missiles to Kaliningrad to neutralize anti-missile defence system,” Adamkus is quoted in the release.
Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Olekas stated, “I am convinced that this is not the path Russia should choose because the missile defence shield is not targeted against Russia. We believe that there is another way – a way of agreements and joint decisions rather than contradiction. The more weaponry there is, the more damage is caused to the security situation in the region. This applies to Kaliningrad too, not only Lithuania”.
The commander of Lithuanian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Valdas Tutkus expressed his wish that “I hope that the international community and NATO will issue a relevant response.“
What is a possible consequence of this Kremlin’s threat? A quote by a possible new Minister of Defence Mrs. Rasa Juknevičienė said that ““Should Russia really go through with this, it will be another sign that Lithuania must take national defence with its neighbours very seriously, with the most important thing being NATO’s special attention to the region and the perceived security of people living here”.
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.