By Simon Araloff, AIA European Section

AXIS Information and Analysis

April 17, 2006

According to diplomatic sources in Berlin, in the nearest time Algirdas Brazauskas, the head of the Lithuanian government, is scheduled to visit the German capital. From the viewpoint of the hosts, the main objective of the visit is to come up with the explanations of the new German government under Angela Merkel to the Lithuanian leader on the issue of cooperation with Russia in the energy sphere. Brazauskas would be quite unequivocally told that the official Berlin views Moscow as its strategic partner and has no intention to give up cooperation in the energy field, and will do all possible not to tolerate its international isolation. On the basis of confidentiality German diplomats have informed the AIA of establishment of good personal terms between Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin, including regular phone conversations on diferrent current issues. Accordingly, the Russian-German relations have been striking the right note. In one and a half weeks, April 26-27, in the Russian city of Tomsk the regular Russian-German intergovernmental session is to take place, scheduled to discuss cooperation in different fields, first and foremost, energy sphere. The European Union-Russia summit will follow as the next in Sochi in May. Then the July summit of the full Group of Eight (G-8) will come round and the German side, unlike the Americans, has no doubts on its necessity. And finally, in November, the regular session of the Russian-German “Petersburg Dialogue” forum will be held in Dresden, this time with the participation of the Russian president Putin personally.These and many other active contacts with Moscow are promising considerable economic and political dividends to Berlin in the very near future. This very thing is to be explained to Algirdas Brazauskas during his forthcoming visit to the German capital. He would be proposed either to join the developing cooperation of the two powers by right of the junior partner, or to lag behind the process. In any case, as German diplomats maintain, the chancellery of the Federal Chancellor has no intention to sacrifice good relationship with the Kremlin for the sake of satisfying the pretensions of Vilnius as regards the construction of the German-RussianNorth-European gas pipeline (NEGP).

In this connection the German diplomats have been pointing out that on February 27 the heads of governments of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia had met in Trakai, Lithuania, and factually reached an agreement on establishment of the joint anti-German-Russian energy front. It was supposed that the basis of it will be set down in the form unified regional power strategy, that was due to be developed in the teamwork till the end of 2006. However only a month later prime ministers of Latvia and Estonia one after another have been invited to Berlin. Aigars Kalvitis of Latvia paid a working visit to the German capital on April 6, and Andrus Ansip of Estonia visited Berlin a week later. They both got roundly the same message that will be delivered to Brazauskas, that is – Germany is not going to abandon its strategic partnership with Russia and suggests the Baltic countries to join its new “advance to the East”. In fact, as it is considered in Vilnius, this has been nothing but Berlin’s diplomatically worded pressure. In an official statement of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Latvia, it was announced in this regard that “both sides discussed cooperation in the energy sector”. The Chancellery of the Estonian Prime Minister turned out be more outspoken. It was said in the statement distributed by its press service, that “both sides have discussed in detail the significant role of Russia in providing fuel to Europe and are interested to begin a constructive dialogue with Russia on the subject”. It is worth reminding of the fact that no dialogue with Russia have been envisaged by the agreements reached in Trakai. It is noteworthy in the given context that since the return home of Kalvitis and Ansip, both the official Riga and Tallinn, have not ventured a critical remark addressed to Berlin or Moscow regarding the construction of the German-Russian gas pipeline.

On the eve of the Berlin visit by the last participant of the February Trakai meeting hopes have been expressed in the German capital that Brazauskas would turn out to be not less compliant than his Latvian and Estonian counterparts. It has been reminded in the surroundings of the Chancellor in this occasion that on the morrow of the signing of the German-Russian agreement on the construction of the North-European gas pipeline, the Prime Minister of Lithuania, like many other Lithuanian politicians, had allowed to voice some impartial comments concerning the German leadership, that supposedly had arranged things with Russia on the new division of Europe. However in the next months his anger died out, and he even has been rather quietly talking on such issue as the participation of the Russian oil company LUKOIL in the privatization of the Lithuanian oil refinery Mazeikiu Nafta.