Books on Lithuania
Update No: 309 - (26/09/06)
Falling out with Russia over oil and transport
The enclave, Kaliningrad, on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania, is the
base for a large military garrison and has great strategic value to the
Russians. It is separated from the rest of the country precisely by Lithuania,
putting it geographically inside the EU, not of course in any other way. Transit
through Lithuania has been the source of dispute for years and tensions have
escalated in the past few weeks.
Russia's Foreign Ministry hit out angrily in August at suggestions Lithuania
might take the rail link with Kaliningrad out of action "for repairs."
It said Lithuanian officials had hinted they might close the route in
retaliation for Russia's closure for "repairs" of a pipeline spur that
delivered Russian oil to Lithuania's Mazeikiu refinery. "Such threats could
lead to the most serious consequences for relations between our two
countries," said Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Titov, seemingly
oblivious to his own country's bad tempered intervention over Mazeikiu. It must
be frustrating for today's Kremlin apparatchiks that their former colonies can
so defy them. What Moscow is hearing is impertinence. What the world is seeing
is sovereignty. It is anyway a moment when Lithuania can breathe a collective
sigh of relief that it is now a member of NATO.
Russia deliberately shut down the oil pipeline because Moscow was infuriated
that the Lithuanian government sold its stake in Mazeikiu to Poland's PKN Orlen,
rejecting bids from Russian oil companies and escalating pressure from the
Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, told President Putin that Lithuania was also
blocking some military supplies from crossing its territory.
A new sea-route inaugurated by Putin
The Russians have yet another card to play. Putin on September 12th inaugurated
a new sea route that will link Kaliningrad directly to the Russian mainland,
bypassing the troublesome overland route via Lithuania.
Putin inspected the new ship-rail terminal in Kaliningrad that will process
cargoes delivered from Russia by the new route. Officials say it will take some
of the goods traffic that at the moment is shipped by train via Lithuania. Putin
said the sea link was important for Russia's national security and instructed
Ivanov to oversee speedy completion of new transport projects in the region.
"For us the transport infrastructure of Kaliningrad in particular is of
enormous importance because of the region's enclave status and the fact that it
is a outpost for contacts with our European neighbours," Putin said.
The state-owned Rossiya television channel said the new sea link to Kaliningrad
would "deprive the Baltic states of an instrument of influence" over
Russia. The link can transport 1.5 million tons of goods to Kaliningrad from
Russia a year, the regional governor, Georgy Boos, says.
The Baltic tiger booming
Lithuania is doing basically very well. Its GDP growth was 8.4% on an annual
basis in the first half of this year, after spectacular rates of over 7% per
annum for a decade. It has even received the commendation of being 'the Baltic
Tiger' from the ultra pro-market journal, The Economist, surely the ultimate
But there is trouble in the woodwork all the same, as there always seems to be.
None of the post-communist states appears to have escaped the practice of
duplicity and deceit that was their dutiful lot under the comrades, not even
totally Lithuania. It remains in a sense the most redoubtable of the former
Soviet states that made its basic disagreement with Moscow quite clear before
any of the others, way back under Gorbachev.
Dark mutterings are abroad, that is for sure.
Adamkus is ready for attacks against him
Lithuania's President Valdas Adamkus is highly respected because, although
of Lithuanian origin, he spent most of his life in the US and is an improbable
suspect for corruption or chicanery of any kind. Nevertheless, he has said he
was not surprised by a slander campaign against Lithuanian state institutions
and leaders, which, as the State Security Department has warned, may intensify.
In a statement issued on September 7th, the State Security Department warned
about possible new attacks organized by Viktor Uspaskich, the founder of the
Labour Party suspected of financial crimes and wanted by Lithuanian law
enforcement agencies. Uspaskich is currently hiding in Russia.
"I saw the statement, I was not surprised at all. I think we will see and
hear even more. Black information seems to have been planned and starts working.
I am convinced that we will hear even worse fanatic things, which, in my
opinion, we will be able to read as an interesting novel," Adamkus told
reporters, commenting on the State Security Department's statement.
The historical context
There is one big difference between Lithuania and other former Soviet
states. Its own communist party started the movement for independence under
Gorbachev, led by Algirdas Brazauskas. He was First Secretary of the Communist
Party of Lithuania (CPL) in 1988-90, during which time it seceded from the
Communist Party of the Soviet Union(CPSU), with the full support of Yeltsin,
then President of the Russian Federation and daggers drawn with Gorbachev.
There was an interim period when Lithuania was run by Vytautas Landsbergis, a
musicologist, whose presidency from March 1989 led to the country declaring
independence from the USSR in March 1990, the logical consequence of the CPL
leaving the CPSU. The whole world held its breath after Moscow intervened to
quell dissent and demonstrations in Vilnius, in which 15 were killed. Was the
Gorbachev experiment in dialogue and conciliation over? Fortunately for
Lithuania it was not.
Brazauskas and Landsbergis did nor see eye to eye at all at the time or
thereafter, indeed were not even on speaking terms. Brazauskas appeared to be
finished, the standard-bearer of a discredited regime.
But following elections to the Seimas (parliament) in late 1992, Brazauskas, the
born politician and eternal survivor, became head of state as leader of the
Lithuanian Democratic Labour Party (LDLP), successor to the Communist Party of
Lithuania, which won 76 out of 141 seats, an unusual success for a former
A new system of government became operative with Brazauskas' election as
President in February 1993. His government surprised many of its critics during
1994 by its continued commitment to rapid economic reform and to Lithuania's
independence. Rural interests, which formed the bedrock of support for the LDLP,
were unhappy with the failure to roll back implementation of the free market in
agriculture and with the break up of centralized state farms and cooperatives.
After alternating the presidency and the premiership for a decade, Brazauskas
retired from the scene earlier this year. He remains the architect of modern
Lithuania, its Ataturk as it were, who purged it of communism and brought it
into the modern world. But it would only be fair to acknowledge that Lithuania
had needed the moment of the musicologist, Landsbergis, to score the process on
Moldovan Prime Minister, Lithuanian Foreign Minister meet in Chisinau
Lithuania is keen to help others to develop, notably hard-hit Moldova, the
poorest country in Europe. But it is a promising one all the same, with some of
the richest pastureland and orchards on the continent.
Moldovan Prime Minister, Vasile Tarlev, had a meeting with Lithuanian Foreign
Minister, Petras Vaitiekunas, on a working visit to Chisinau in mid-September.
The sides considered ways to strengthen and deepen the collaboration relations
in all the fields of common interest.
The officials particularly focused on Moldova's European bid. Underlining
Moldova's efforts to achieve this goal, Tarlev called for Lithuania's support in
taking over the experience accumulated in this respect.
The Lithuanian diplomat hailed the course of European integration, followed by
Moldova. He highly appreciated the parliament having adopted the declaration on
political partnership aimed to help fulfil the goals of European integration.
"Lithuania is willing to offer to Moldova all the necessary support and
share the experience accumulated on the way towards European integration,"
The officials expressed their will to intensify trade relations. They stressed
that the opening of the Lithuanian embassy in Chisinau, as well as a
representative of the Lithuanian Chamber of Trade and Industry there, and the
Moldovan diplomatic mission in Vilnius, should strengthen the process. The
premier welcomed the decision to simplify the visa regime between the two
The Transnistrian problem was a special subject of their discussion. Tarlev
pointed up the need to join the international community's efforts to solve the
issue in a peaceful and democratic way.
Tarlev thanked the Lithuanian side for backing the activity of the European
Union border Assistance Mission for Moldova and Ukraine, speaking for enlarging
its powers and prolonging the monitoring period.
Swedes, Czechs interested in Ignalina NPP
Swedish and Czech energy companies recently showed interest in cooperating over
the building of a new nuclear power plant in Lithuania, Prime Minister,
Gediminas Kirkilas, said recently, New Europe reported.
"Czech state energy provider CEZ and Swedish firm Eon Nordic are interested
in providing equipment for the new plant," known as Ignalina-3, "and
investing in it," Kirkilas told Ziniu Radijas radio. "Today I already
believe in the success of the project," the Lithuanian prime minister said.
Kirkilas met the CEO of Czech state-run energy company CEZ, Martin Roman, in
Vilnius. The two men discussed "cooperation in the whole energy
sector," including Ignalina-3, according to CEZ spokesman Ladislav Kriz.
But the discussions were "really only a first step," Kriz said,
adding, "We can't say if we are interested in Ignalina or not." CEZ
currently runs two Soviet-era nuclear plants in the Czech Republic.
E.ON Nordic CEO, Lars Frithiof, also visited Lithuania and discussed the
Ignalina-3 project, according to spokesman Stieg Claesson. "We have said
that if they want a partner we are prepared to take part," Claesson said.
However, E.ON would wait for the outcome of the study currently being conducted
by the energy companies of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, Claesson said, adding,
"It is up to them."
The Ignalina-3 project foresees the construction of a new nuclear power plant at
the eastern Lithuanian site of Ignalina, currently home to two Soviet-era
Lithuania closed down the Ignalina-1 reactor, which is built on the pattern of
the Chernobyl reactor, in 2004. According to Lithuania's EU accession treaty, it
has to close the Ignalina-2 reactor by 2009 - with a serious impact on its
"The most efficient scenario ... (would be) the continued operation of
Ignalina 2 until the end of its technical life in 2017. In principle, this
option has been foreclosed by the EU accession agreement," Holger Rogner,
an economics expert at the IAEA, said.