U.S. President Nominates New Ambassador to Lithuania
On April 7 The White House issued a statement that U.S. President George W. Bush nominated John A. Cloud, Jr. of Virginia, as a new ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Lithuania. J.A. Cloud, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, currently serves as Deputy Chief of Mission in Berlin, Germany.
Ambassador V. Usackas Delivered Remarks to the Virginia Military Institute Cadets
On April 6 Ambassador of Lithuania to the USA, Vygaudas Usackas delivered his remarks on the implications of the EU and NATO Expansion for European-U.S. Relations at the Virginia Military Institute. “Because of the democratic changes in Central and Eastern Europe and because of the enlargements of NATO and the EU, Europe and the transatlantic community are stronger and better equipped to handle the opportunities and challenges that we face in the XXI century,” said Lithuanian diplomat. “The enlargements of the EU and NATO are a historic step towards Europe ‘whole, free and growing in prosperity’ which also serves as an example and an inspiration to continue democratic reforms and resolve differences through peaceful means for countries such as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania and others,”- said ambassador V. Usackas.
Baltic Sea Resolution in PACE to See Light of Day
MP Gediminiad Jakavonis overcame bureaucratic obstacles at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) last week, pushing through a resolution he initiated over chemical weapons resting at the bottom of the Baltic Sea. Jakavonis, a member of the assembly’s committee on the environment, agriculture and regional affairs, said that the assembly’s bureau supported the Lithuanian initiative to draft the resolution at a meeting in Strasbourg on April 11. Two months ago, the initiative, which focused on ecological threats to the Baltic Sea caused by WWII-era chemical weapons, was named among this year’s PACE policy priorities in the sphere of environmental protection.
Lithuania’s President Hits Back at Russia’s Policy on Energy
President Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania has called for a common European Union front in response to Russia’s willingness to use its energy supplies to secure political influence over its neighbors. Speaking to the Financial Times on the eve of an international pro-democracy conference in Vilnius, Mr. Adamkus condemned Germany for backing Russia’s controversial planned Baltic Sea gas pipeline, which will circumvent transit countries including the Baltic states, Ukraine and Poland. He said: “I believe I can understand the Russian position but I can’t understand Germany’s position. As a member of the EU, they acted without even extending the courtesy of advising the Baltic states [about their plans].” Mr. Adamkus’s comments echoed those of Polish officials including Radek Sikorski, defence minister, who earlier this week compared the Baltic pipeline deal with the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact – the secret German-Soviet agreement dividing up Eastern Europe signed just before the Second World War. (May 4, 2006)
Ex-Advisor: Russia fails G-8 standards
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former economic advisor said that Russia does not meet Group of Eight standards for membership. Andrei Illarionov said Tuesday that while the G-8 is “a very important and very effective tool for making Russia a more prosperous and free nation,” Western countries will send the wrong signal if they allow Russia to curtail economic and political freedoms while remaining a member of the organization. Russia will host the next G-8 summit on energy security in St. Petersburg this July. Illarionov told an audience at the National Press Club that he does not necessarily advocate the expulsion of Russia from the G-8, but noted that “an appeasement policy has not been an effective policy — if not only for the United States and the rest of the world, but for Russia itself.” “The G-8 as a club of free, democratically advanced nations will cease to exist,” he said. (UPI – Washington April 18)
U.S. Business and Trade Mission to the Baltic States May 22 – 26, 2006
The “U.S. Business Investment and Trade Mission to the Baltic States” will start in Riga, Latvia, on Tuesday, May 23, 2006, and from May 24 through May 26 will continue in Klaipeda and Nida, Lithuania. Participants are offered an exclusive opportunity to meet business counterparts and political leadership of Klaipeda, make on-site visits to industrial sites and commercial points of interest in Lithuania, experience unique beauty of Curonian Spit and Nida, and to enjoy Lithuanian hospitality. The objective is to promote the differentiating competitive advantages for U.S. businesses to invest and trade with companies in the Baltic States. The central event of the “U.S. Business Investment and Trade Mission to the Baltic States” will take place in Riga, Latvia on Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at the Radisson SAS Hotel “Daugava”.
The Kremlin Crosses out Candidates for UN SG Post
Russian diplomats and secret servicemen started actively diffusing information that tars Latvian President’s reputation, in order not to allow her appointment as the UN Secretary General. Moscow elaborated and started realizing a secret plan of discrediting the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, reliable sources told AIA (Axis Information and Analysis). The Kremlin shows a growing discontent with regard of Washington’s alleged intention to suggest Vike-Freiberga for the UN Secretary General at the end of this year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has a right to veto any inconvenient candidature for that position. The Russian administration, however, decided not to bring the case up to the necessity of using this right, caring of its image in the eyes of the other members of the UN General Assembly. The Kremlin has elaborated another scenario. According to a special plan which was approved at the highest level, the Russian official institutions having contact with foreigners, and first of all the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Intelligence Service, are now deploying a propaganda campaign aimed at slandering the Latvian President. As for Vike-Freiberga’s candidature, it is unacceptable for Moscow not just because of highly strained relations with Riga in such issues as the state border and the Russian minority in Latvia. The Kremlin was extremely negative concerning Vike-Freiberga’s recent speech during the Davos World Economic Forum, when she announced the necessity to reduce the authorities of the five UN Security Council permanent members, and called to view a possibility of changing the composition of this body. (AIA European Section April 10)
Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) to the Baltic Countries to be Reduced in FY 2007
The Baltic countries are scheduled to receive cuts in FMF funding from $4.55 million each in 2006 to $4 million each in 2007. $136.8 million in the FY 2007 budget for FMF will fund ongoing efforts to incorporate the most recent NATO members into NATO, support prospective NATO members and coalition partners. Major programs include $30 million to continue the defense reform in Poland while advancing professionalization, modernization and interoperability to support its coalition efforts; $15 million to further defense reform and modernization in Romania; and $15 million to promote Turkish Armed Forces modernization and strengthen its participation in the global war on terrorism. These numbers all are slight increases for these countries. IMET funding for Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia is being slightly reduced ($3000 per country) to $1.185 million per country, while Russia is slated to receive $790,000 which is actually an increase over 2006 funding levels. $27.1 million in the FY 2007 budget for IMET is slated for new NATO members and key coalition partners, as well as other nations in the region to promote regional security and integration among U.S., NATO, European and Eurasian armed forces.
Cheney Lashes Out at Putin in Lithuania
Vice President Dick Cheney, in remarks that caused a stir in neighboring Russia, accused President Vladimir Putin, Thursday, of restricting the rights of citizens and said that “no legitimate interest is served” by turning energy resources into implements of blackmail. Cheney’s sharp remarks – some of the administration’s toughest language about Moscow – came two months before President Bush travels to Russia for the annual summit of industrialized democracies. “No legitimate interest is served when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation,” Cheney said. “In Russia today, opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade,” Cheney told a conference of Eastern European leaders held in Vilnius, Lithuania, whose countries once lived under Soviet oppression, and now in Russia’s shadow. “The democratic unity of Europe ensures the peace of Europe,” he said. The Vice President stated Russia has a choice to make when it comes to reform, and said that in many areas, “from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties, the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of the people.” “In these 15 years, the Baltics have shown how far nations can progress when they embrace freedom, serve the interests of their people and hold steadily to the path of reform,” he said. (AP Special Correspondent VILNIUS, Lithuania, May 4, 2006)