Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 196

President Algirdas Brazauskas and parliament chairman Vytautas Landsbergis declared separately yesterday that Russian-Lithuanian relations are becoming "normal" and show prospects of continuing improvement. Brazauskas will in the next few days pay an official visit to Russia. He is the first Baltic president to obtain such an invitation from Boris Yeltsin in the six years since the restoration of the three states’ independence. Last weekend in Moscow Lithuanian foreign minister Algirdas Saudargas and Russian deputy prime minister Valery Serov co-chaired the inaugural meeting of the Russian-Lithuanian intergovernmental cooperation commission. Vilnius regards the establishment of this body as a success in itself, notwithstanding Moscow’s continuing refusal to settle the ex-USSR Vneshekonombank’s hard currency debts to Lithuanian depositors and to return the unlawfully seized Lithuanian embassy buildings abroad. Also last week in Moscow, diplomats initialed a long-negotiated agreement on the delimitation of the mutual border, the first document of this type to be concluded by Moscow with a Baltic state. This removed the last impediment to the Brazauskas visit. Vilnius also expressed appreciation of Yeltsin’s disavowal of the Duma’s recent resolution that had called for revising Lithuania’s borders. (BNS, Russian agencies, October 18-20)

The visit by Brazauskas had been planned before the Lithuanian president’s recent, unexpected decision not to seek a second term in the December presidential election, in which Landsbergis is a contender. (See Monitor, October 7-8) A relaxed climate in Lithuanian-Russian relations should make it difficult for the Lithuanian left to continue playing the Russian card against Landsbergis, particularly since Landsbergis himself is applauding the improvement in relations with Moscow. The detente is not, however, having an impact on Lithuania’s pursuit of admission to NATO. In their separate statements yesterday, Brazauskas, Landsbergis, and Saudargas (the latter speaking in neutral Finland on a stopover from Moscow) described admission to NATO as a top priority and a guarantee of the country’s future, even as it seeks to improve relations with Russia. (BNS, October 20)

Moscow for its part has in the last year differentiated between Lithuania on the one hand and Estonia and Latvia on the other, as part of a policy promoted by Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov to drive a wedge between the Baltic governments. Should the Russian side seek to use the Brazauskas visit for that purpose, the Lithuanian leaders’ statements indicate that they will not play along.

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