- July 9, 2012
Samsel: Lithuanian bridges…
… are going up in flames left and right. Thus the president ofPolandhas recently summed up the approach Lithuanian government has towards its international relations. Quite accurately. But doesLithuaniastand to gain from such an approach? Currently it has three options.
The first one, which it prefers, is to build its future within NATO and EU structures. It prefers, but oftenLithuaniahinders itself if not outright undermines its position which is not too strong to begin with. Another option is a pro-Russian one. In a few years this can lead to a complete subjugation ofLithuaniabyRussia.
It is a matter of geopolitics. It isLithuaniathat separates two parts of Russian territory; not even accounting for respective potentials of both countries. This is enough to ensure thatLithuaniacannot expect to have a partner-like relation withRussia.
The third way is what Prime Minister Kubilius has been hinting at lately. This option is based on maintaining good relations with the countries located betweenRussiaand the EU; which meansBelarusandUkraine. Of courseLithuaniaremains a part of the EU; it is supposed to attract these countries towards it. A daunting task.
Firstly, however, it requires a good position within the EU. AndLithuaniaundermines it all the time. Secondly, theRepublicofLithuaniais a country with too small a political capital to either attract or repel these countries from the EU. Especially since its primary competitor isRussia.Lithuaniacan play a positive role but as a component of EU’s policy towards these countries.
We cannot make decisions regardingBelarusorUkraineon our own and against the European directives. This will only serve to weaken its position in the EU and consequently will cease to be an equal partner forBelarusand Ukrain. At most, it will become a “Trojan horse” ofRussiain the EU with all the consequences thereof.
They are a vital part ofLithuania’s position within the EU. The road to Europe leads throughPoland; which has its political and economic consequences.Lithuaniahas done a lot to make its life more difficult in this regard. For twenty years it couldn’t fulfill an agreement regarding the treatment of Polish minority which is not a good idea.
Additionally the relations were made worse by the “Education Law.” On the economic front, the “adventures” of ORLEN inLithuaniadid their part. I am surprised that Lithuanian politicians are disappointed by their Polish colleagues’ reserved attitude towards Lithuanian atomic power plant. The energy link betweenLithuaniaandPoland(and by extension the rest of the EU) still does not exist. It had to happen.
Contrary to what Lithuanian leaders try to push through in relations withPoland, politics are not separate “compartments.” Is there no connection between the treatment of Polish minority and economic relations? There most certainly is! It can be seen in politics all over the world. In our case it can be quite clearly seen in the prices of gas fromRussiapaid by some countries, as compared to others. We should think what causes that; certainly not just economic calculations. Polish politicians made their conditions clear. They ran into a wall.
Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated that there is no “Polish minority” problem inLithuania. And after every meeting with Polish politicians he said that the issue has been raised. A non-existent problem was discussed then? The Minister of Education started to negotiate with Poles from the position that “his” bill was perfect and required no changes.
President Grybauskaite said in theUSAthatPolandabandonedLithuaniaforRussia. Recently she said that negotiations withPolandcan be safely put on hold. And indeed it happens. Add to that media playing up the cases of extreme nationalists such as Songaila or Landsbergis and the whole picture looks rather bleak.
What is more, the attitude of Polish society towardsLithuaniahas changed as well. Polish policy took a more pragmatic turn from the past “strategic partnership.” It started when the average Pole thought ofLithuaniawell or not at all. Following that pragmatic turn politicians started to get nervous. They took actions and said things that were of course related in Polish media. Thus the attitude of Polish society towardsLithuaniashifted towards the negative. Which gives the government stronger support for its actions. In a word, things do not look good.
Others in NATO and the EU
For a time there was a “Scandinavian” option in Lithuanian politics, intended to replace the “Polish one. It failed right at the start since Scandinavians maintain high standards with regards to human rights, civil society, dealing with corruption and using public positions for private gains. With regard to theseLithuaniacannot be treated as a serious partner.
Add to this the pedophile scandal and its fallout we are currently witnessing. In economic matters lack of any conflict regarding, for example, Swedish minority paradoxically makes things more difficult as well. IF concessions were made towards Polish minority, similar concessions onPoland’s side could be expected in economic matters as well. Even from a geopolitical standpointPolandprefers to haveLithuaniaon its side.
Swedenis different. It has to see a potential profit from doing business withLithuania. Otherwise they have no reason to bother.
Lithuania’s relations withLatviaandEstoniais not free from conflicts either. The first issue was the nuclear power plant. It is clear that both countries approach the issue more pragmatically thanLithuaniadoes. It is hard to faultLatviaandEstoniafor not wanting to bolsterLithuania’s position out of their own pocket.
They are waiting for a serious shareholder since they are not sure whether or not the venture will be a profitable one. So far all three countries have little potential and too small a number of recipients for one to appear. The lack of energy connection with the EU just makes the matter worse.HITACHIcorporation (which is to build the plant) held off signing the agreement until the year’s end. AdditionallyLithuaniamanaged to get into conflict withLatviaover the placement of LNG terminal.
It is obvious that each of these countries wants to have it on its own soil and get the EU funds for its construction. From a geographical point of view, placing it inLatviamakes more sense. The terminal is to serve all three countries.Estoniarealizes it and this is why it is trying to negotiate the best investment position it can.Lithuaniastubbornly demands it for itself and that’s it. It quarrels withLatviaand places itself in a difficult position with EU.Estoniawants NATO air base to be moved to its territory.Lithuaniastarts another conflict by rejecting the offer outright. Strategically speaking both suggestions are valid.
Which givesLithuaniaa good starting position. Rather than yell “No!” it should present the benefits for NATO from keeping the base inLithuania, including economical ones. But if you insist on charging the countries guiding Lithuanian airspace with the cost of keeping the base, pilots, staff, etc. you greatly weaken your position. Better to change economic conditions and to make a deal withEstoniaregarding the use of both bases.
Starting such a conflict, despite a good start, can end in a loss and weakeningLithuania’s position in NATO, not very strong to begin with. Then there are various blunders with regards to protocol, and that is putting things mildly. President Grybauskaite announced that she will have a conference with the president of theUnited States, in which presidents ofLatviaandEstoniawill also participate. Except that the latter two heads of state learned about it from president Grybauskaite which made a terrible impression. Especially since no conference took place and only a photo was taken. In a word, all is not well.
Countries outside the EU
The relation withRussiais tainted by Lithuanian demands that it pay reparations for the occupations by theUSSR. Objectively speaking it is valid;Germanypaid for its occupation after all. There is however one issue.Germanywas defeated chiefly by theUSSR, it underwent a process of denazification and demilitarization. It became a different country.
Russiawas not defeated and its attitude towards the past is far from unanimous condemnation and rejection. Thus there is no way for the demands to succeed. All they do is spoil the relations. Geographical location ofLithuaniais such that it has to be an object of Russian actions. Economic potentials are not even worth discussing. Energy dependency is more or less complete. There is no way to have a partnership. For these reasons “Russian option” in Lithuanian politics has to end with fighting for the rights of Lithuanian minority in Kovno Governorate.Russiais not like the EU. InRussiadecisions are made pretty much singlehandedly.
Good relations with “the last dictator ofEurope” are not a good solution either. It is against the European policy. AndLithuaniahas worth forBelarusmostly by virtue of being a member of the EU. Vicious circle. Until recently some maneuvering was possible. Now that Łukaszenko took a more determined stance maneuvering is slowly becoming impossible.Lithuaniahas to act loyally towards the EU. Besides the economic benefits of relations withBelarusare practically the “benefits” of contacts withRussiasince Belarusian economy is dominated by Russian companies. All it does is increasing the dependency towardsRussia. And that… see above. In a word, all is not well.
W ciągu kilku lat Litwie udało się pogorszyć stosunki praktycznie ze wszystkim wokół.
In several yearsLithuaniamanaged to ruin its relations with practically all its neighbors. Sometimes through its own fault, sometimes due to external factors. In some cases the causes for conflict are irrational and easy to remove which can only benefit us both internationally and locally. At any rate the new Lithuanian government has its work cut out for it. Continuing past policy is a good way to end up isolated few years down the line. It is important for Lithuanian society to understand this. We can keep burning bridges but sooner or later we will be left with no way out. Such is the choice we have.
Tłumaczenie Andrzej Rola w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Andrzej Rola within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.