Treating Latvia as the primary target and Estonia as a secondary one, while seemingly cultivating Lithuania, has been just about the only predictable feature of Russia’s policy toward the Baltic states in the last two years. Introduced by Yevgeny Primakov while prime minister of Russia, those wedge-driving tactics were continued under Vladimir Putin’s presidency until now in the vain hope of disrupting Baltic solidarity. The policy of differentiation may now be about to make room for one of undifferentiated psychological pressure. The Kremlin and the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Moscow have in recent weeks issued withering polemical attacks on Lithuania. The Foreign Affairs Ministry even chose Lithuania as a “case study” in arguing that the Soviet Union had incorporated the three Baltic states “lawfully” and “at their own request”–a relapse from the post-Soviet to the classical Soviet position. Four days later, on June 13, the Lithuanian parliament enacted a law which requires the government to seek compensation from Russia for damages inflicted by the Soviet occupation of Lithuania (see the Monitor, June 13, 16, 19).
The latest attack came on June 26 from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), trying to drag in the United States as well. The FSB’s public relations office announced that the service has uncovered a Lithuanian agent in the double employ of Lithuania’s State Security Department and of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. In the FSB’s version, the agent was tasked to penetrate computer units of the FSB, collect information about those units’ operations and personnel, recruit an informer there, and sabotage the FSB’s counterintelligence efforts so as to facilitate “espionage on Russia by the agencies of Western countries.”
The FSB claims that the agent’s mission, in May and early June, was timed to President Bill Clinton’s visit to Moscow in an attempt to “discredit Russia.” This version appears designed to kill two birds with one stone by implying that Lithuania and the CIA connived to spoil American-Russian relations at the time of Clinton’s visit. The story seems to have the familiar ring of the politically motivated “operational games” [operativnye igry] engaged in by the KGB’s external intelligence directorate during the era of Soviet-American summitry.
This latest attack should serve to reunify Lithuania’s political forces, healing the rifts which the immediately preceding Russian attacks seemed to have opened in Vilnius. President Valdas Adamkus distanced himself from the parliamentary majority’s and the government’s position on the issue of seeking compensation for occupation-era damages. In a televised address on June 23, Adamkus criticized the conservative-led majority for that initiative which, in the president’s view, “runs counter to national interests” by spoiling Lithuania’s relations with Russia and complicating her relations with the West. Adamkus urged the parliament and government to advance Lithuanian-Russian relations and to treat that goal as compatible with Lithuania’s quest for NATO and European Union membership. In strong language, the president accused the governing Conservatives of mismanaging internal policies and of trying to divert attention from those failures ahead of the October parliamentary elections.
The president’s address may sound the death knell to the political consensus which helped elect the Lithuanian-American Adamkus two years ago against a left-of-center opponent, and which ensured continuity in Lithuania’s internal and external policies until now. Political realignments are already underway in Vilnius as the Conservatives seem headed for a rout in the upcoming elections (see the Monitor, March 28) and the president needs to create a new base of support.
Obliquely answering Adamkus’ criticism, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius pointed out in a press interview that Russian policy toward the Baltic states seems to have entered a new and more dangerous stage. For the first time since 1991, Moscow is trying to defend the occupation of the Baltic states under the Nazi-Soviet pact. Against that background, Putin now “categorically vetoes the Baltic states’ admission to NATO,” Kubilius observed, referring to the Russian president’s remarks during his recent visit to Germany. Russian diplomatic pressures aim to affect Western decisions on the Baltic states as well as internal political processes in the Baltic states, Kubilius concluded.
Parliament Chairman and conservative leader Vytautas Landsbergis, main inspirer of the damage restitution law, defended that parliamentary move in a June 26 rebuttal of the president’s criticism. Landsbergis argued that the June 13 enactment represents a legal and logical corollary of the restoration of Lithuania’s independence. It also reflects a sovereign state’s obligation to protect the rights of its citizens, seek compensation for the destruction or forcible confiscation of public and private property, and claim damages on behalf of its citizens victimized by the occupation. Landsbergis again urged Moscow to follow the example of Germany in making restitution payments to surviving victims and their families.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Minister Algirdas Saudargas offered consultations by his ministry to the political parties for the purpose of restoring a political consensus on foreign policy, tiding the country over the pre-electoral and election periods. Saudargas, a veteran holder of that ministerial post and a Christian-Democrat leader, has thereby identified the most urgent priority for Lithuania at this stage (Itar-Tass, RIA, June 23-24; Vilnius Radio, June 23; BNS, Lietuvos Rytas, June 26).
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