The Baltic Times
Arturas Racas, VILNIUS
February 15, 2007.
U.S. president George W. Bush praised Lithuania this week for supporting peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and pledged his personal support in abolishing visa requirements for the Baltic country.
“I”m not surprised that in a struggling democracy like Afghanistan, your country has stood up bravely to support the Karzai government and the people of Afghanistan. And I thank you. And I thank the citizens of your country for your willingness to contribute to peace by helping a young democracy survive,” the U.S. leader said after a meeting with Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus in the White House on Feb. 12.
Lithuania leads one of NATO“s Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and plans to send more troops in addition to the approximately 120 currently deployed there.
Bush also noted Lithuania”s presence in Iraq, where some 60 Lithuanian troops are deployed.
“It”s hard work in Iraq. But, nevertheless, it is inspiring to know that Lithuania has said, “we want to help the people realize the blessings of a free society,”” Bush said.
But the two presidents discussed more than questions about war and peace during their meeting.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting Bush revealed that Adamkus “was quite adamant about visa waiver.”
“There should be no doubt that here in the Oval Office President Adamkus represented the will of the majority of the Lithuanian people when we discussed the visa waiver and his desire for the people of his country to be treated like most of the other people in the European Union,” the U.S. president said.
“I assured him we”ll work with Congress to get a fair piece of legislation forward as quickly as possible so we can deal with this issue once and for all,” Bush added.
The Lithuanian president, in his short comments after the meeting, expressed his gratitude for the U.S. support to Lithuania and pledged to continue cooperation.
“Freedom is still not available in some parts of the world. This is why we are with our, I would say, meager resources, [are] standing by you in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Kosovo. And we are definitely going to stand shoulder to shoulder just to make sure that the remaining Iraqi people who cannot enjoy today those kind of privileges — free speech, respect for human rights — would be given them,” Adamkus said.
The two presidents also discussed NATO enlargement to the Balkan countries, energy issues and the situation in Belarus.
“We can not turn away from Belarusian society, we can not isolate the people. But the world can not tolerate brutal violations of basic freedoms in this country,” Adamkus said in a statement released by the president”s office.
The meeting with the U.S. president was the main event of the Lithuanian president”s almost weeklong official visit to the United States.
Adamkus began his visit on Feb. 7 in San Francisco where he delivered a lecture in a meeting organized by the World Affairs Council and met heads of local information technologies companies as well as members of the local Lithuanian community.
In Washington the Lithuanian president attended a conference organized by the Joint Baltic American National Committee and a ceremony to kick off construction of the Lithuanian embassy”s new building.
Adamkus also took part in the annual meeting of the US-Baltic Foundation where he presented Lithuania to the U.S. public, political, media and business figures in attendance. During the event the Lithuanian president was awarded the Baltic Statesmanship Award by the wellknown U.S. political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski.
In addition to the talks with the U.S. President, Adamkus met with Vice-President Richard Cheney, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Michael Chertoff, the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security.
The visa waiver and energy independence were among the key topics in those meetings.