Archive for March, 2009
As the BNS writes, in his view, it would be useful if the government applied to the IMF before taking an expected decision on the cutting of public expenditures by 3 billion litas (EUR 869 mln) in April.According to the latest forecasts by SEB Bank, Lithuania’s gross domestic product (GDP) might decline by some 9% this year. However, the plunge might be sharper and reach up to 15 %, Nauseda warned. “We have to get ready for a 15% economic decline as well. Unfortunately, such is the reality. It is manifested by industry performance, potential changes in other sectors, in particular the construction and real estate, which will get much more pronounced in 2009 <…> Finally, the situation in other sectors is not too optimistic, either,” Nauseda said, and the BNS writes.
In his opinion, if the previous government remained in power and continued its work unchanged, Lithuania would already have to declare insolvency.
“True, that would be bankruptcy. In this case it would not be that important whether we default on obligations to creditors and financial institutions or public servants and pensioners,” Nauseda said.Source BNS
As the BNS informed Lithuania feels positively about Prime Minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen as a potential candidate for NATO secretary general.
Head of the Public Relations Department under the Foreign Ministry Rolandas Kacinskas on March 24 communicated the ministry’s position to BNS.
“If he were to run, Rasmussen would be a good candidate for NATO secretary general”, said Kacinskas, refraining from comment on Danish prime minister’s competitors for the said post the BNS writes.
On the other hand Poland might block Mr Rasmussen’s candidacy.
For Sweden, tiny Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are too big to fail, the IHT claims.
“There is a strong feeling from our side that we have a political responsibility to do whatever we can to help them,” Anders Borg, the Swedish finance minister, said during an interview. “They are new democracies; they are part of our economic region.”
“We have declared to our banks that they are supposed to behave responsibly — to perceive these Baltic countries as their home market,” Borg said. “We have set up no hindrances, no regulations, no demands that prevents them from using the capital that we are providing to stabilize their subsidiaries and branches in the Baltic countries.”
Today was the last day for the candidates’ registration in the Presidential race in Lithuania. The electorate committee has registered 13 candidates. Mr Matulevicius will have to wait for the committee’s decision until Monday. In order to enter the race all candidates will have to gather 20.000 signatures each. The Commissioner Grybauskaite and Chairman of the Order and Justice claim that they already gathered required number of the signatures. The rest of the candidates have until April 2. The first Presidential election round will take in May 17.
I would like you to suggest an editorial from March 9 the Vilniaus Diena daily.
We probably will have no more than ten candidates in the presidential race. Despite the fact that there is a clear favourite to win the race, the selection will still be pretty wide. After it finally became clear that the political patriarchs – Algirdas Brazauskas and Vytautas Landsbergis – would not participate in the race, the situation became even clearer, because among the remaining candidates there is no one who could be a serious competitor to European Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite. Thus, it is probably wise to think she will become the head of state. Yet, things may not be as simple as they seem.
This week we will finally know how the 17 May presidential election-voting bulletin will look like, and it will be possible to make stronger conclusions.
However, it is already possible to predict that Grybauskaite’s main opponents will be Kazimiera Prunskiene, who presented her candidature earlier, Arunas Valinskas, who “has been dreaming about becoming president since the day he was born,” and Algirdas Butkevicius, the newly-elected leader of the Social Democrats [LSDP]. By the way, Butkevicius in a way can be viewed as Grybauskaite’s man. After all, in 2004 it was Butkevicius who replaced Grybauskaite as finance minister, after Grybauskaite went to work for the European Commissioner. He replaced her not without the euro commissioner’s recommendation.
Polls and common sense say that the remaining candidates are unlikely to be acceptable to the majority of voters. Valentinas Mazuronis, the member of the Order and Justice Party [TT] behind whom one can easily discern the shadow of impeached President Rolandas Paksas, Retired General Ceslovas Jezerskas, who is almost openly trying to become a Lithuanian Pinochet, and Loreta Grauziniene, a member of the Labour Party, (if she decides to run for president) cannot even dream about gaining a significant number of the votes.
There is no point in talking about the strange men: Algirdas Pilvelis, Vytautas Kundrotas, Jonas Jankauskas, and Vidmantas Sadauskas.
However, the large number of potential candidates can extend the race into the second round, because no matter how popular Grybauskaite is, the remaining candidates can simply fragment the vote. In such a case, the euro commissioner may be a few ballots short from the 50 per cent of the votes, which would guarantee her victory in the first round.
By the way, sometimes it seems like Grybauskaite’s supporters are seriously afraid of the possibility of going to the second round. Experience shows that such fears are founded. In the 1997-98 and 2002-03 elections the victory went not to the person who won the largest number of votes in the first round. In 1998, Valdas Adamkus won by a few dozen thousand votes, even though in the first round Arturas Paulauskas had had a strong lead. In 2003, Paksas won after defeating Adamkus, who had collected a much larger number of votes in the first round. An exception to this rule was the early elections of 2004.
As predicted, Adamkus, who had been ahead in the polls and the first round, won those elections. However, his opponent – Prunskiene – managed to increase the number of her proponents by almost two and a half times in the two weeks between the first and second round. This time, we will have even three weeks between the first and second round. This would allow Grybauskaite’s opponent to put in more effort in trying to lure the voters.
Thus, it would be unwise to bet large amounts of money that the euro commissioner will definitely win the presidential race. It is not always easy to predict the Lithuanian voter’s moves, especially considering the fact that more than to months still remain till the elections. Many things can change in the voter’s mind; many global and local events can change his moods.
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
‘Recalling of the anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe mark the beginning of some geopolitical games between US and Russia’
Following the topic of the possible deals between Washington and Russia in regards to Iranian nuclear ambition and the US missile defence systems in Poland and Czech Republic another Lithuanian political scientist expressed his opinion. Lecture of the Vilnius University Institute on International Relations and Political Science Tomas Janeliunas was not as positive as another lecture of the same institution Mr Girnius.
Mr Janeliunas told to BNS that the new US administration’s potential move to recall deployment of anti-missile shield elements in the Czech Republic and Poland, namely its significance to Eastern European security is still dim. Russia, on the other hand, should enjoy US’ proposal to lend a helping hand in tackling challenges brought about by Iran’s underway-nuclear programme.
The New York Times wrote that the President Obama handed over a seemingly secret letter to Russian President Medvedev, therein addressing the possibility of swapping the anti-missile defence in Europe for pooling efforts against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.The lecture worried that this would mean that an official confirmation on this info would reveal changes in US foreign policy priorities.
“The move to recall plans for deploying an anti-missile defence shield wouldn’t be of great significance to Eastern Europe. As far as I’m aware and as far as bipartite agreements go, the Polish will be getting missile interceptor systems promised by the US even if there will be no anti-missile shield. However, all lies within details. Should recalling of the anti-missile shield in Eastern Europe mark the beginning of some geopolitical games among super states like the US and Russia, then as far as we’re concerned, this wouldn’t mean anything positive”, the political scientist reasoned.
Forgoing missile defence deployment in Eastern Europe most likely wouldn’t mean that the US is renouncing plans to get equipped with such armament in general, said Janeliunas to BNS. Creating the missile defence system came at too great of a price for it to be completely renounced, and the threats posed by countries like North Korea doesn’t reverse the logic for developing missile defence, he said.
Janeliunas told to BNS that the US administration’s decision to halt deployment of missile defence elements comes as less of a detriment in comparison to that potentially brought about in the short term by Iran’s nuclear program, should it go on unhindered. “In this sense, it is becoming evident that warranting security in Afghanistan and Iran’s nuclear program are among the foreign policy priorities of the new US administration. US needs allies so as to overcome these problems. The US already has NATO allies in Afghanistan, but the Iran problem is concurrent with Russia”.
US’ proposal to Russia to work hand-in-hand in view of back-pedalling Iran’s nuclear program should come as a compliment, said Janeliunas, as by doing so the US would be acknowledging Russia’s significance in the international arena and its influence when it comes to tackling global security issues.
Janeliunas said that should these proposals prove to be correct, it would be difficult to decide right away whether they are positive in terms of Eastern European security.
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.