Lithuania has entered the New Year with a political chaos. It has turned out there are problems and complete misunderstanding between the high-ranking officials concerning Lithuanian foreign policy. National mass media perplexedly quote the President, the Prime-minister and the Minister of foreign affairs, who have completely opposite views on Lithuania’s role in the international arena.
It sounds paradoxical, but Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, “did not consult the government before making her decision to vote in favor of a UN resolution rejecting US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.” This was the way Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis commented her decision on the issue.
On the other hand the President called the statement made by Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis on the possibility of resumption of the work of the Lithuanian-Russian commission on intergovernmental cooperation irresponsible.
It has become absolutely obvious that lack of consent between Lithuanian authorities has led to the political chaos.
The situation when “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” is typical for Lithuanian domestic policy at least in the last five years. Probably, the fact is that Dalia Grybauskaitė and Saulius Skvernelis pursue different goals in the foreign policy. The Prime Minister is guided by national economic interests while the President is highly dependent on her previous promise to support the US and EU common strategy to restrain the growing might of Russia and its allies.
Once again national interests contradict the interests of huge international organization – NATO and EU. Having received huge financial resources she lost voice in these organizations. The more so Dalia Grybauskaitė also lobbies the US policy in Europe though it very often harms the national economy. As a result – she could not oppose Washington’s decisions. In other words she “works out” the funds received by exaggerating the threat coming from Russia and its neighbor Belarus.
Such foreign policy may be a straightforward consequence of failed domestic policy. The President could not find ways to restore the state economy after gaining independence. She has become accustomed to rely on external NATO, EU and the US assistance and continues to do so further. As soon as the issue of the threat from the East ceases to sound loudly, the president tries to aggravate the problem by inventing horror stories, for example about the Russian-Belarus Zapad 2017 exercise when the strength of involved troops was greatly overestimated in order to gain additional attention and financial aid.
Lithuanian Prime minister, who suggested resuming political contacts with Moscow, said that dialogue between Lithuania and Russia could address issues relating to trade, energy, and transport cooperation, as well as issues relating to agriculture, carriers, and the situation with teachers of the Lithuanian language in the Kaliningrad region. For Lithuania it is a good chance not only to support national economy but also restore lost ties.
Former President Rolandas Paksas, for example, reminds that Lithuania has three strategic political directions: NATO and EU membership as well neighborhood policy. It seems as if the third direction is no more actual one for the President.
He also blamed Dalia Grybauskaitė for refusing to negotiate not only with Russia but with Belarus. Today Lithuania fiercely protests against the construction of a Belarusian nuclear power plant about 50 kilometers from Vilnius, but, in his opinion, it was the unwillingness to talk and negotiate that led the Belarusians to build a station in a place so unsuitable for Lithuania.
Lithuania cannot establish good neighbor relations even with Poland, that is NATO and EU members either.
The President forgets or consciously does not want to use Lithuania’s advantageous geographical position. After all, Lithuania can and should play the role of a bridge between the West and the East in all spheres: cultural, economic and even military.
Today, Western countries communicate directly with Russia, and the heads of state do not refuse meetings and contacts, so it is unclear why Lithuania can not do the same.
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding,” said Albert Einstein.