Posts filed under ‘Ukraine’

Lietuvos zinios paper views security chiefs’ role in alleged CIA prison affair

See an article from Lithuanian daily Lietuvos zinios about possible links between investigation into death of the Lithuanian State Security Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and the current investigations of alleged secret CIA prisons in Lithuania.

Article by Jurga Tvaskiene: “State in Swamp of Double Lies”, November 26
The habit to lie to the Seimas’ ad hoc commissions, which was introduced by senior state officials, has become a norm. MPs try to fight against this with proposals to introduce prison sentences for those who give false testimonies. If such measures were applied earlier, perhaps now we would know whose interests killed Colonel Vytautas Pociunas and how those who obstructed the investigation into his death are tied to the new scandal related to CIA prisons in Lithuania.

Politicians do not lie – they just do not tell the whole truth. Such a joke can be found on Lithuanian Internet portals. Yet, MPs, who form ad hoc probe commissions in the Seimas in order to find answers to questions that often are unsolvable even to law enforcement officers, are not laughing. Especially, when after testifying before the Seimas’ investigators senior officials admit they have been talking gibberish. And do not get punished.

The increasingly deeper swamp of lies is especially worrisome now, when the Seimas is conducting a probe into the possible existence of a CIA prison in Lithuania. People, who three years ago lied and practically destroyed the probe into the death of Pociunas, a colonel of the State Security Department (VSD), and into the real motives of the VSD activities, will probably be invited to testify in this probe. [passage omitted on the fact that former senior officials of Lithuania denied having any knowledge about the alleged CIA prison].

In April 2004, Rolandas Paksas, who had been president for a mere year and a half, was impeached from his post. Soon after that, Valdas Adamkus returned to this post and transferred actual control of the country to other persons. Including VSD leaders, who during Paksas’ impeachment process, together with other persons desiring influence, got used to doing whatever they liked in Lithuania.

Assistance to Russian special services representatives in developing their businesses in Lithuania, manipulations with classified reports, pandering to the interests of a small group of people, and, on the other hand, attempts to cover their moves with Western partners’ demands. These were daily activities of the VSD leadership.

In addition, one should not forget that the CIA, which after the events of 11 September 2001 declared a war on international terrorism, was spending huge amounts of money on this. Only now in the US scandals are starting that money allocated for antiterrorism activities were spend on unclear things, but the declared goal has not been achieved.

Profitable Service
In the spring of 2004, a group of persons who understand each other very well assembled at the VSD. Thanks to lies, Gintaras Bagdonas was not allowed to become VSD director (Bagdonas, who had been proposed to this post by Paksas, was not suitable for Lithuania, but was greatly evaluated by NATO leadership). After that, KGB reserve officer Arvydas Pocius became VSD director. He was met by Dainius Dabasinskas, who had been a VSD deputy director since 2001 and who had been sent there by the Foreign Ministry. Soon after, Darius Jurgelevicius was also appointed [a VSD deputy director] with the same type recommendations.

By the way, the year 2005 became the year of financial prosperity for these men. The representatives of Lithuania’s poor law enforcement sector started driving luxury cars. For example, Dabasinskas started driving a brand new US-made Chrysler. Was it a gift from CIA colleagues? That same year Dabasinskas, who until then had been renting an apartment in Turniskes, purchased it for more than a half a million litas. This information surfaced only a few years later, when it turned out the apartment had cost less than the market price at the time, and the circumstances of the sale resembled a bribe.

Dabasinskas, just as the other fate brothers, was merely reprimanded, but retained his post. [passage omitted on an overview of the parliamentary probe into the death of VSD officer Pociunas].

On 8 August, Jurgelevicius requested to be discharged from his service at the VSD due to “personal reasons,” without even waiting until VSD Director Povilas Malakauskas returned to work from his unexpected sick leave. Until that moment MPs, who conducted a probe, and civic groups, who were demanding adherence to the principles of justice in Lithuania, were unable to oust Jurgelevicius from his post. After President Dalia Grybauskaite granted his request, the official immediately went as far from Lithuania as possible – it was said he became the Georgian interior minister’s adviser. Considering the fact that Georgia is actively trying to gain greater patronage from the US and therefore may be ready to make various concessions, Jurgelevicius’ desire to work in the institution, which oversees law enforcement and security structures of that country, in the current context may raise various thoughts.

A week after Jurgelevicius’ resignation there was the second news – without commenting on the reasons for his decision, Dabasinskas, Jurgelevicius’ colleague, left his post, too. After receiving a recommendation from the VSD in a record time, he was sent by the Foreign Ministry to work at the embassy in Ukraine.

Exactly two weeks later, American TV station ABC News announced the first information about the CIA prison in Lithuania. One can have various assessments of the Lithuanian VSD inside the country, but it would hard to reject the well-developed ties with foreign partners (especially with the US partners). Thus, it is possible that Jurgelevicius and Dabasinskas, who held high posts inside the VSD, much earlier that the public received information that US media started digging and would soon reveal the information, which had been kept secret for a few years.

It was also only a matter of time before similar news from this or that VSD officer tied to the CIA activities in our country was going reach the public in Lithuania. It was said that even VSD leaders once in a while among themselves were wondering about their subordinates’ silence, which they could not understand.

One can think that VSD heads, who had gained the backing of previous Lithuanian leadership one way or another, realized that to get away this time would not be as easy as during the probe into the death of Pociunas and into the VSD activities related to his death. The countries, which are seen as Lithuania’s friends and which do not belong to the EU (with all of its strict rules), are an excellent shelter in the increasingly difficult situation.

Moreover, if Lithuania this time decides to defend the truth and law, the characters who damaged the country’s reputation probably will not avoid responsibility. [passage omitted on international law Professor Dainius Zalimas’s opinion that the state and its officials would be responsible for alleged human rights violations at the CIA prison and on proposals to introduce accountability for false testimony before parliamentary committees].

Translated by the BBC Monitoring

December 1, 2009 at 5:02 pm Leave a comment

Russian Charter bid may threaten Lithuania’s security

As the BNS informed a Russian NGO’s bid to start issuing so-called Russian Charters to nationals living in foreign states may come as a threat to Lithuania.

The Baltic state’s re-elected Member of European Parliament conservative Vytautas Landsbergis on Saturday thus commented to BNS news of the endeavour.  “This may become a dangerous thing, but this will depend on Russia’s policy and on how many people get tempted by this Russian Charter. It can lead to ample provocations,” the MEP said. 

The Russian Charter will act as a document confirming voluntary commitment to the state and people of Russia, the country’s web portal said on Friday.

Landsbergis picked at the notion of making commitments to a foreign state, when, in fact, one is a citizen of yet another.  “It would be strange if Lithuanian citizens would make commitments to the state of Russia. By undertaking such commitments the citizens would be hypocritical. This comes as a black-hearted move on their (Russia’s – BNS) part, one aimed at provoking and unsettling the state of Lithuania,” the conservative spoke. 

Landsbergis didn’t dismiss the possibility that the idea to start issuing the document in question was coordinated with the Russian authorities.

“I don’t think Russian authorities were kept in the dark. This should rouse anxiety among neighbouring states, especially Ukraine and Belarus,” said the MEP.

According to Landsbergis, the Polish Charter may have served as a poor example in this particular case.

The charters will be issued first of all to Russians living in the Baltic States, Ukraine, Moldova and Kazakhstan, the Russian portal said.

It is necessary to take action that the approximately 30 million of Russians living outside the country maintain their ties with the historic homeland, are supported and defended, Leonid Shershnev, head of the foundation which initiated the bid, told the portal.

Recipients of the charter are likely to be eligible to certain privileges, including economic ones, like discounts.  The portal notes this practice as being in place in other countries as well, referring to the Polish Charter.

A number of Lithuanian poles living in the Vilnius region, including former MP and future MEP Valdemar Tomasevski and MP Michal Mackevic, have the Polish Charter.

News of Lithuania’s MPs having the Polish Charter spurred initiatives to question whether this document is compatible with an MP mandate and whether it is in line with the country’s Organic Law, however the Seimas voted against addressing the Constitutional Court over this matter.

The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.

“The Polish Charter is a document proving your Polish origin. The charter provides its holders with the rights stipulated in the the Law on the Polish Charter adopted by the Polish Sejm on Sept. 7 2007,” reads an official brochure of the Polish Charter.

Persons holding the charter can receive long-term visas free of charge, get legal employment in Poland, carry out economic activities under the same conditions as Polish citizens, have rights to free education, emergency medical assistance, 37 percent discount off railway tickets, free access to state museums and priority right in applications for financial assistance from Polish state and municipal budgets for supporting Poles living abroad.

A brochure on the Polish Charter also underlines that having one is not the same as having Polish citizenship.

The Polish Charter can be acquired by those who declare in writing their will to pertain to the Polish nation and who can prove that at least one of their parents, grandparents or great grandparents were of Polish origin or had Polish citizenship.

Source BNS

July 13, 2009 at 2:21 pm 2 comments

Lithuania is Among Top Five Enemies of Russia

Lithuania is among the top five enemies of Russia. This was revealed by a recent public opinion poll in Russia. One can say that the notion of Lithuania as an enemy was inculcated into the heads of common Russians by the Kremlin’s propaganda. This is true, but it does not change the essence of the issue. Unlike in 1990-1991, today Lithuania would not be able to count on moral support from Russians, which was one of the reasons why we were successful in our quest for independence. Later, when we were negotiating over the withdrawal of Russian troops from Lithuania, favourable opinion about us among common Russians was also a very important factor.

Even ten years later, when we were trying to join NATO, one of the arguments our politicians and diplomats used in the talks with the Western partners was a poll that showed the majority of Russians did not object to our membership in the alliance. The poll also said that our membership in the alliance would not harm Russia’s relations with NATO, something Moscow’s politicians were trying to claim. Therefore, Russian politicians drew certain conclusions and started fixing the mistake of their propaganda, which at that time still counter-positioned the “good” Lithuania against the “bad” Latvia and Estonia.

Thanks to the efforts by the Kremlin’s propaganda masters, in 2004-2005 Vilnius got involved in a fierce verbal war against Moscow. The war lasted till 2008 and did not produce anything good for Lithuania: The Druzhba [friendship] oil pipeline was not reopened, the talks over compensation for the occupation damages did not commence, the Medininkai murderers were not extradited. The only thing we achieved was the loss of allies in the EU.

Russia, meanwhile, gained a strong argument in the discussions with the EU and NATO. From dawn till dusk the EU and NATO were told: “Did we not tell you that by accepting those intrigue-loving Baltic states, you would gain a source of constant disagreements with Russia?”

In 2004-2005, Russians’ opinion about the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia has started to get worse. This showed that harming the ties with the closest neighbours in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was a deliberate and pre-planned policy of Moscow.

A fruit of this policy could be observed in May 2007, when during rioting by Russian-speakers in Tallinn hundreds of thousands of Russians, without having been urged by anyone, got involved in cyber attacks against Estonian websites. A year later, we witnessed another result of this policy in Georgia. That time, as the Russian tanks were rolling towards the neighbouring country, not only Vladimir Putin, but also millions of Russians, overcome by chauvinistic orgasm, were demanding to hang Mikhail Saakashvili “by his balls.”

If the Kremlin started some sort of a political or economic pressure campaign against Lithuania, the support from Russian citizens would be just as enthusiastic.

Source BBC Monitoring

June 20, 2009 at 11:08 am Leave a comment

Grybauskaite won Presidential seat, will Lithuania’s foreign policy change its direction?

According to the latest official results Ms Dalia Grybauskaite has won the elections for the Lithuania’s presidential post.  Some  69.08% voted for the EU Commissioner, the biggest ever support for a presidential candidate.  51.71% of all voters executed their constitutional right.  Those are preliminary results announced at 1200.  The final announcement should come on Sunday.

Butkevicius got 11.83%, Mazuronis 6.16%, Tomasevski 4.74%, Prunskiene 3.91%, Grauziniene 3.61%, Jezerskas 0.67% .

President Adamkus, the Speaker of the Parliament Valinskas and the PM Kubilius all congratulated the President in waiting.  It is still unclear who is going to work in Grybauskaite’s team.  A lecture of the Vilnius University Institute  of International Affairs and Political Science Mr V. Dumbliauskas stated to the Lietuvos Rytas paper that the members of her team are going to be fresh and young people without any political baggage.  He mentioned that four of his former students are invited in the team.

Another lecture from the same university Mr Janeliunas mentioned to the BNS that Grybauskaite’s entry into office would undoubtedly bring changes in terms of foreign policy.  Janeliunas told to the BNS that some attention from Eastern European countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova will be shifted to European Union’s (EU) heavyweights, which in his words will be one of the pivotal changes.  “She would look to Western European capitals for backing and then assess the feasibility of European integration among other quests. (…) Directions would shift in line with long-term priorities,” he said to the BNS on early Monday morning.

The BNS agency also quoted Director at the Centre for Eastern Geopolitical Studies Kasciunas who maintained a similar opinion.  “There are signs that point to Lithuania’s increased attention to deeper EU integration rather than full-fledged EU expansion to the East,” Kasciunas told BNS.

The BNS wrote that the political expert felt that Lithuania’s shift in this particular direction could result in the country adopting a more agreeable stance on Russia in line with the popularity of this trend in Western Europe. It is impossible to provision the benefits or lack thereof implicit in this change, said Kasciunas, noting that more thorough EU integration would undoubtedly be beneficial to the country in terms of energy, however cautioning that integration to EU’s military structures could be more detrimental.

However, these are only predictions and assumptions based on Grybauskaites statements.  However, these questions were not really answered during the election campaign.  Hence, the predictions above remain only such.

May 18, 2009 at 12:12 pm 4 comments

Lithuanian president was not impressed by Obama’s Prague speech

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.


Source BNS

April 6, 2009 at 3:14 pm Leave a comment

Lithuania PM – Eastern Europe needs coordinated EU help. Dark clouds of crisis over the Baltic States and some rays of optimism

Economical gloom is reigning in the Baltics.  The SEB bank has released a traditional forecast for the Baltic economies.  According to the report the Batics are in the long and painful recession.  However, Lithuania looks much better against its other Baltic brothers.

In its latest Nordic Outlook report, SEB forecasts that Lithuania’s economy will contract by 5.5 percent this year and 3 percent next year.  If you think this is bad read further.  Estonia’s GDP will plunge by 10 percent and 2.3 percent and Latvia’s economy will slide by 9.5 and 3 percent, respectively.

Lithuania’s average annual inflation rate is expected to ease to 5 percent this year, down from 11.1 percent last year, and decelerate further to 4 percent in 2010. Inflation in Latvia should reach 4.8 percent this year before falling to 0.5 percent next year. Inflation in Estonia will be 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

During his visit to Sweden Lithuania’s Prime Minister Kubilius once against called for the EU countries to look at the problems in Eastern parts of the EU more seriously.  In his interview to the FT he stated “It would be good to see a more coordinated approach from the EU authorities.  We are all suffering in a similar way from the credit crunch and the recession.”

In this interview Kubilius also expressed his worries about the situation in Ukraine and Russia.  “We are worried about what can happen in Ukraine and Russia.  The collapse of one of these big markets would have a very negative impact on the whole region.”

Kubilius said Baltic companies were complaining that foreign banks were tightening lending conditions, preventing them getting credits to pursue export opportunities. “Sometimes we would like to see a more positive attitude, especially when business is not in a bad shape,” he said.

In the same interview Kubilius noted that the Baltic States were in an especially difficult position because, to defend their fixed exchange rates, they had to tighten rather than loosen fiscal policy and their exports had become less competitive compared to countries with depreciating currencies.

However, Lithuania did not yet need to follow neighbouring Latvia and seek help from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kubilius noted.  “We don’t have any real need for IMF lending,” Kubilius assured. “We are controlling our budget deficit and we don’t have any real problems at the moment with local banks.”

However, Kubilius said this could be counter-productive: “There is a stigma [in seeking IMF help] that we want to avoid,” he said. “We can still borrow from private sources and we hope that in the second half of the year there will be a more positive international market.”

Nevertheless, Kestutis Glaveckas, the chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s Budget and Finance Committee, has mentioned that Lithuania may have to turn to the IMF for financial support to stimulate the economy.

The MP noted to the BNS on Feb 18 “The financial instruments and powers that we have and are waiting for from the EU can be insufficient in the next six months and we may have to look for other financing sources. Seeking [financial support] from the IMF is not ruled out”.

However, even in the such grim environment the Lithuanian Economy Minister Dainius Kreivys still keeps his upbeat spirit and expects that either or will “sooner or later” begin to develop operations in Lithuania.

As he the BNS wrote, “It’s a question of time. I believe that sooner or later we’ll attract either or,” Kreivys told members of the parliament’s Economics Committee on Feb 18.

The BNS informed that the minister said that he was personally in talks with Sweden’s furniture group Ikea, Norway’s aluminium manufacturer Elkem and over investment in Lithuania.

As the BNS states Elkem considered investing about 800 million litas (EUR 232 mln) in building a factory in the port of Klaipeda or in the central Lithuanian town of Kedainiai. The company discussed those plans with the then Prime Minister, Gediminas Kirkilas.

Google was interested in the possibility of establishing a data centre in Lithuania. Ikea, which bought the chipboard and furniture factory Giriu Bizonas for more than 100 million litas last December, mulled building a new fibreboard and cellular furniture factory in Lithuania.

February 18, 2009 at 9:19 pm Leave a comment

Lithuania’s main daily urges policymakers to boost country’s national security

Russian Tank in GeorgiaI would like to present you with the editorial from the largest Lithuania’s daily Lietuvos Rytas August 28.  If anyone would like to accuse the daily of Russo phobia I would like to remind you that this article appeared before the Finish foreign minister expressed his wish for Finland to join NATO.  The Swedes are also opened a discussion on further strengthening their relationship with this military alliance.  Could you accuse Finland and in this case Sweden of unfounded phobias?  Here we go…

The images of Russian tanks rolling through Lithuania are a thing of the past. Fifteen years ago, on 31 August, the last Russian soldier left Lithuania.

It seemed like the occupation army would stay in the depths of history forever. Yet, in the beginning of August of this year, Russian tanks stormed into Georgia and resurrected those images. It seems like it was harder to believe the Russians would leave 15 years ago than it is to believe they could comeback today.

A month ago such statements would have sounded like paranoia. Lithuania joined NATO four years ago, and we firmly believed we would always be safe from Russian storms under the NATO umbrella.

The only time the clear sky of Lithuanian optimism soured was in 2005, when a Russian jet SU-27 crashed in Lithuania, and Air Force Chief Jonas Marcinkus suspiciously flirted with Russian officers who came to investigate the incident.

The Russian aggression against Georgia has forced even the biggest optimists to stop and think. Even though Georgia is not a NATO member, its ties to the alliance and the US sort of said Tbilisi would be safe.

The Russians, who needed merely a few days to occupy Gori, Poti, and other Georgian cities and who burned and robbed those cities, showed they could not care less about NATO. Even the US was only able to condemn, urge, and express regret.

True, some tend to diminish the Kremlin’s war against Georgia by saying one should not make any conclusions about Russia’s intentions, because the seeds of the conflict in the region had been sown a long time ago and there was no other solution.

Yet, now we have heard this question: Who can be Russia’s next victim, which unscrupulously “defends” the interests of its citizens abroad, – Moldova, Ukraine, or the Baltic states?

It is possible the fear may be exaggerated, but a precedent has been created. After all, Hitler did not attack Poland right away. At first he had examined the West’s reaction with the Austrian Anschluss, the Czechoslovakian occupation, starting in the Sudetes.

Russia already recognized South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s “independence” and entrenched the aggression’s consequences, and we know that one’s appetite grows as one is swallowing foreign lands.

International law expert Dainius Zalimas said Russia’s growing political, economic, and military pressure was a threat to Lithuania’s security. He also said Lithuania ought to re-examine its national security strategy.

Only the Conservatives [TS-LKD] and the Social Democrats [LSDP] reacted to the Russian aggression. Meanwhile, in August (what a coincidence!) 31 MPs launched an attack against the country’s NATO membership [the Constitutional Court was asked to explain whether presence of NATO troops in Lithuania would be constitutional].

Our neighbours got rid of the false sense of security already. In Latvia, they immediately called an urgent meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the national security strategy.

The Latvian media announced that NATO started preparing a defence plan for the Baltic states. NATO has not confirmed this.

Yet, here is what became clear: The alliance still does not have such a defence plan. Not the best news, when one is hearing reports from Georgia, where the Russian Army is digging more and more trenches.

Fred Kagan, an influential American military analyst, admitted that “NATO contributed very little to the development of the Baltic states.”

Kagan urged NATO to increase security of the Baltic states, because Moscow could be tempted to attack them: “I think Russia has plans regarding the Baltic states and has created a precedent in Georgia, thinking it could use force to defend the Russian minority abroad.”

According to the analyst, only more serious work by NATO would reduce Russia’s desire to attack Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania. For example, deploying antimissile and antitank systems.

We continue repeating the fifth article of the NATO treaty, as if it was a mantra: “An armed attack against one or more of the members in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all, and other members will take action that they deem necessary, including the use of armed force.”

Does this mean, however, that NATO allies will send their divisions to defend Vilnius? Who could answer this question with a firm “yes” now?

As Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski accurately noted, “documents and agreements are good, of course, but Poland’s history is full of examples of situations in which Poland was forced to fight alone, because allies had abandoned us.” After Russia attacked Georgia, Warsaw immediately agreed to deploy US missiles-destroyers in its territory.

There is nothing similar in Lithuania. It is also hard to say how determined is NATO to change its position on Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who visited Tallinn and Vilnius on 26 August, also realized that Western Europe’s reserved stance in the face of the Russian aggression worries the Baltic states. In Tallinn, the chancellor tried to be consoling by saying NATO would defend Estonia, and it would not be “formal defence.”

Sikorski’s statement, however, is not a mere metaphor; therefore, strategists of Lithuania’s defence policy should not rely merely on agreements and a few NATO jets in Zokniai [airport].

The relative peace we enjoyed for fifteen years after the occupants’ departure has ended. Today, as the Kremlin is showing its growing imperial fangs, we need much more to ensure the country’s security. The government, military officials, and diplomats are responsible for determining what concrete steps must be taken.

Source: BBC Monitoring

September 1, 2008 at 3:49 pm 1 comment

A snow (rain) meeting in Lithuania

Rain and DanceAs the BNS informed foreign policy strategists from the United States, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania gathered in Vilnius on Thursday for an informal discussion of challenges to Euro-Atlantic dialogue.

The two-day meeting is attended by representatives of Lithuanian, Latvian, Polish and Swedish governments (Carl Bildt is going to participate also), foreign affairs and defence ministries, the US Department of State and the presidential administration and the European Commission’s Development Directorate and experts of US analytical centres.Among participants is Deputy Assistant to US Vice-President for National Security Affairs Joseph R. Wood and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried.

According to information available to BNS, some participants of the Snow Summit preferred to remain unnamed.

BNS has also learned that the informal meeting was named the Snow Summit in hopes of Lithuania being covered with snow and had no other code meaning.

The BNS informed that the Lithuanian foreign policy analysts say that the meeting is held amid tendencies of stalling Euro-Atlantic integration in Eastern Europe and South Caucasus. Participants will exchange ideas and search for new instruments to accelerate the process, which is stalled by the fresh democracies in the regions and the Russian efforts to impede their Euro-Atlantic bids.

The experts say that the informal consultations of NATO partners last decade contributed to the Euro-Atlantic integration efforts in the Baltic states, which have already achieved NATO and European Union (EU) membership. Revival of the practice in Lithuania is expected.

According to information available to BNS, other items on the agenda of the Snow Summit include European-American cooperation in the context of energy, as well as perspectives of relations between European and US partners in the North Atlantic Alliance, which have alienated following the US invasion of Iraq.

According to the latest information available (just looked out of the window from my Vilnius home) the Snow meeting is going to turn into a Rain meeting since it is raining in Vilnius.  Is that an another consequence of the global worming?  Well, the participants of the meeting will not discuss that.  Besides, as we say in Lithuania ‘Čia Lietuva, čia lietūs lyja’ (It’s Lithuania, it rains here).  Please note that in Lithuanian ‘Lietuva’ is Lithuania and ‘lietus’ is rain.

January 18, 2008 at 11:22 am Leave a comment

Russia is out of the CFET: subsequences for the E Europe, the Lithuanian few

Russian Nuclear bombsThe Baltic States are situated next to Russia; hence this region feels the beating of the Russian bear pulse very well.  The Western Kremlinologists and the experts on Russia ridiculed those Balts who warned the West that Russia is irreversibly moving away from the liberal democracy and that Mr Putin is not a ‘democrat’.  Those warnings made only some months after Putin became the President were ignored and laughed at.  Now it is not funny any more.  Now Russia is on its route out from the Conventional Forces Europe treaty.   Hence, lets listen that some Lithuanian annalists have to say on the subject.

As the BNS reports Russia’s withdrawal from the Conventional Forces Europe treaty and its efforts to restore its military influence in post-Soviet countries may transform the Baltic States into demilitarized “grey” zone, Lithuanian foreign policy analysts believe.

The foreign policy experts are convinced that Russia would carry out its threat to leave the treaty on Dec. 12, thus facilitating deployment of more military equipment in South Caucasus and then “probably with somebody else’s hands” trying to provoke Tbilisi to a military conflict, which could discredit Georgia’s opportunity of joining NATO before the Alliance’s summit to take place in Romania next April.

The analysts said on condition of anonymity that Russia was also ready to take into consideration the aim of Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin to remain in power “at any price,” therefore, would guarantee him the Dnestr region votes and withdraw its forces in return for his loyalty to the Moscow course.

At the same time, by artificially escalating issues of Iran and the independence-seeking Kosovo and triggering contraposition of Euro-Atlantic partners on these matters, as well as on energy and economic issues, Russia could offer the West its plan for return to the Conventional Forces Europe treaty – in return for a permit to Russia to set conditions of the agreement.

One of the conditions could be “setting of very low ceiling of military equipment for the Baltic states,” which would pull the balance of military power in the NATO-Russian border region away from NATO, as well as from the Baltic nations.

The analysts close to the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry believe that the West continue to have a certain degree of fear of “cold war” and would be glad to see Russia change its mind.

In their opinion, Russia’s true aims and intentions will clear up in the coming six months and are now clouded by the superb public relations, which cannot be resisted by all Western countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said back in the summer of 2007 that his country would stop observing the treaty, which restricts Russia’s military capacity in its European part – i.e., the number of tanks and troops close to the Baltic States. The parliament has endorsed the decision, which has also been officially forwarded to NATO.

Russia has not ratified the document and expressed preoccupation over NATO’s failure to do this, as well as the fact that the Baltic States have also not joined the treaty, which has been signed between the Alliance and the no longer existent post-Communist Warsaw pact.

Meanwhile, Lithuania has repeatedly stated its readiness to join the Conventional Forces Europe treaty under favorable conditions. Lithuania could only join the document signed in Istanbul after its enforcement, i.e., ratification by all 30 original members of the document. No new members including the Baltic countries may be allowed to join the Conventional Forces Europe treaty until its endorsement.

Five years after the final deadline that expired in 2002, Russia has not fulfilled one of the key conditions of the treaty – withdrawal of troops from Georgia and the Dnestr region in Moldova. Up until now, all NATO members held a position that they would not meet their obligation to ratify the treaty until Russia fulfils its commitments.

In August 1939, the Stalin-led Soviet Union and the Nazi Germany signed the so-called Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and its secret protocols on unlawful division of Europe. The deals enabled the Soviets to occupy the Baltic States for 50 years and appoint puppet governments.

Should the Balts be afraid again?

November 22, 2007 at 9:19 pm 3 comments

Lithuanians don’t want to close the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant

Ignalina N plantIt appears that the highest Lithuanian officials are joining a debate, which is gaining momentum, on trying to save the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP) from closure at the end of 2009. It started during the energy Conference in Vilnius last week.  Lithuania’s Economy Minister Vytas Navickas declared that the European Union might allow Lithuania to continue operating the plant through 2009, until a new nuclear plant is build.

Mr. Navickas appealed to the fact that once the plant is shut down, the prices of electrical energy will go up by 40 percent and 75 percent of Lithuania’s energy sector will depend on natural gas from Russia. Lithuania has undertaken to decommission the INNP in 2009 and, together with the Baltic countries and Poland, is planning to build a new nuclear power plant, which will be put into production around the year 2015. However, a day later the European commissioner for energy Andris Piebalgs has urged Lithuania not to even think about continuing the operation of the INPP.As the Commissioner announced in Kauno Diena “I cannot understand the arguments of the economy minister. The plant must be shut down as scheduled, as this is provided for in Lithuania’s accession agreement. Besides, there is a mechanism to compensate the decommissioning in place. The grant will be lost unless the obligations are met. And finally, the decommissioning date is no surprise for Lithuania.  Do not waste time on empty discussions.”

Howerver, on the 16 October the joined President Valdas Adamkus the Minister of Economy and expressed his believe that Lithuania may convince the European Union (EU) of the necessity to extend the lifespan of Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (INPP). He is confident, however, that the country will avoid energy famine under any scenario.

As the President told on the interview to the Zinių Radijas “First of all, we shall evaluate the current circumstances, future prospects, and then go, talk and negotiate using the language of arguments; I think this is reasoned and necessary. I think it is possible to convince them. Since there are lots of reasonable people and they see the actual situation as it is, since we are a EU Member State, and it is important for the EU not to ruin the whole economic life of one of its members. I think we will not be able to build a new nuclear facility by 2009; it might be expected that we will build by 2012 if we are not put back by vain discussions now. Reasonable people may always agree on a period of two or three years, I believe”.

The President continued, “The most important is that we have a new power plant to be built, and it would be unreasonable, irrational to cut any further supply, sources we are working on at present, somewhere in the middle of the road. I think that any reasonable establishment or a person will understand, this may be reasoned, and we may consider the period of extension so as to have us shift from one system to the other”.  

As the BNS noticed the President saw no major threat of energy famine during the transitional period even if Lithuania failed to agree on the postponement of INPP closure date, and enumerated various options. “I will be visiting Sweden in mid-November, I have already spoken about a possibility to have a link to Sweden via the Baltic Sea, through Estonia, and get electricity from Sweden. Again, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko, who is well aware of the circumstances, told me during the just-ended Vilnius Energy Conference that Ukraine was ready to sell electricity to Lithuania, if required”.

Speaking about the planned new nuclear power station, the president encouraged to switch from talks to concrete work. “We must build it without questions about success. We should arrange without delay who will build it and how will we divide the financial responsibilities among us. Then we should sit around a table with main participants of the projects, namely Latvians and Estonians. I see no problems with them. When it comes to Poland, the Poles said clearly during the Vilnius conference that the power plant was vital to them, as well,” said Adamkus.  

In his words, Poland’s demands to receive more electricity than planned are natural. “I had a thorough discussion with Polish president and other officials of Poland – the demand for electricity is necessary for them amid developing economic life and industry, they have no other way out. If we had such a problem, we would also seek to get as much electricity as we need,” the president noted.

As the BNS informed today a Member of the European Parliament Danute Budreikaite said today that Lithuania still has not exhausted every possibility in the negotiations over extending the operation of the INNP and suggests that the government should make more efforts seeking to postpone the date of shutting down the plant.

The MEP also says that back in September 2006, when the European Council was asked if, should a new situation emerge, Lithuania may “readdress the terms of shutting down the 2nd bloc of the Ignalina nuclear power plant anew,” the answer was that according to the provisions of said Article 37, the concerned Member State, to utilize the opportunity to apply the general safeguard provision, must first of all approach the Commission asking for a permission to take preservation measures based on the information that has been collected and forwarded to it.

“After that, the Commission issues a permission for the preservation measures that, in its own discretion, it considers necessary. So the Commission must asses whether the measures that the author of the question has envisaged can be taken,” the member of the EP says.

October 16, 2007 at 8:38 pm Leave a comment

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