Home

Experts: Lithuania Is the Only Baltic State with Ambitions

By Konstantin Ameliushkin

Russia has no long-term strategy concerning Lithuania and Baltic states in general. Energy and history – these are two issues, which could become a platform for relations development. These are the ideas of the experts of Russian Center Carnegie Andrey Riabov, Lilia Shevtsova and Maria Lipman. According to the experts, among Baltic states only Lithuania has ambitions within not only regional level, but whole Europe. After the meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister of Lithuania Audronius A┼żubalis, experts answered the questions of Lithuanian reporters.

Russia has no long-term strategy concerning Lithuania and Baltic states in general. Energy and history – these are two issues, which could become a platform for relations development. These are the ideas of the experts of Russian Center Carnegie Andrey Riabov, Lilia Shevtsova and Maria Lipman. According to the experts, among Baltic states only Lithuania has ambitions within not only regional level, but whole Europe. After the meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister of Lithuania Audronius A┼żubalis, experts answered the questions of Lithuanian reporters.
 
 
- Does Lithuania and Baltic states in general present in Russian policy discourse?

Andrey Riabov: This discourse is not permanent. Some events, problems happen and a new discourse arises. The events and problems go, discourse disappears. Today it’s not conventional to talk about Baltic states, as there are different interests and approaches, but for Russia, it is still an individual region or the EU sub-region, and here there are some positive moves.

They are related not to some values changes, but exceptionally with pragmatic interests of Russian elites, which are seriously involved with capital export from Russia, integration into European global elite. In this view, as closest neighbors, being in a strategically significant Baltic Sea region from economy point of view, Baltic states, have a significant meaning, first of all considering Russian energy projects, which gain great importance for the following decade.

These changes first of all concern the attempts of pragmatization. Still most prominently it is revealed within Russian-Lithuanian relations after the visit of President Zatlers to Moscow. An attempt was observed to establish a committee on historic issues. That is to say some positive impulses are being created. The problem is how to transform it into a long-term strategy of bilateral relations development. Yet there are no approaches. There are only impulses, and much depends not on the lines of Governments, but on other actors. For instance, medium business, NGO activity and civil interaction in general at the level of civil societies. Provided these processes gain definite dynamics, then after a while we’ll be able to talk about reaching of some long-term strategy of bilateral relations with Baltic state and Lithuania in particular.
 

> Lithuania Map

 
 
- Which is the role of energy issues within bilateral relations? How can Gasprom’s pipelines renationalization plans of Lithuania affect the relations between the states?

Andrey Riabov: within a short-term prospect naturally there will be problems. First of all it relates to that Moscow still grounds on its traditional line towards energy problems with the European Union states, where there are bilateral relations and one can negotiate with a definite government on this or that energy project.

In this case Moscow didn’t make a point of the European policy turn that all energy policy gets down to a new standard, third energy project, and all states, with these or that deviations from this project, should come to common norms sooner or later. In Moscow neither authorities nor Gazprom group of companies which are connected with them are ready for that. I believe that within a short-term period we should expect pretty complicated negotiations, relations. I also don’t omit political demarches.

If the EU will manage to preserve the kind of relations with other states, as each country has its problems with Gazprom, then after a while Russian Government influenced by circumstances will have to review its former approaches and play in accordance with general rules.

I don’t think that there is nothing tragic for Gazprom about this. This is a loss, but within a strategic prospect European market for Gazprom during decades will remain the key one despite all talks about China and other options. To my mind the task of diplomacy is to minimize negative consequences, which will inevitable result into the development a long-term prospect of bilateral relations line.
 
 
- Don’t you think that the accomplishment of the third energy bag of the EU in Lithuania could become a reason to improve relations with Russia in a long-term prospect, as Russia and Lithuania would lose an opportunity to politize the issue of the energy source?

Andrey Riabov: I agree with you, but Russia is not the only source, but one of the sources. The second problem we should touch upon especially after a definite improvement within Russian-Polish relations is historic, humanitarian problem. These are two problems, when solving them simultaneously, in future it could become a ground for normalization of relations on pragmatic ground, as considering values, you know…
 
 
-  Mr. Lavrov after the meeting talked enthusiastically about the OSCE rehabilitation. But one of the basic compounds of this organization is human rights, freedom of speech, with which Russia has sound problems. To your mind, in a short prospect, for example on the 31st will people be able to go to demonstration without fear of “contacting” with OMON?

Maria Lipman: Relations with the OSCE develop complicatedly. There have been different periods. If now Minister of Foreign Affairs states the improvement of relations, but there were periods when the situation was really close to break and very acute statements towards the OSCE. This concerns the evaluation o the elections in Russia. The things happening now, benevolent and kind intentions towards the OSCE, correspond in general to the approach to West, the USA on an exclusively pragmatic basis.

As for the situation with human rights in Russia and in particular “Strategy – 31, problems related to the freedom of assembly, than Russia in general doesn’t really like admit anyone’s authority, international or the authority of some states and governments. Russia treats really harshly and try to counteract any attempts to influence the internal situation in Russia, and first of all on the situation with human rights and democracy.

This is either ignoring in the best case or a harsh reaction, that the human rights and democracy problem is only a plea to weaken Russia or harm it. This period at the moment is in past. Any case, relations of Russian authorities with opposition, actions of authorities in reply on its public actions will be guided by Russian domestic political interests, in particular, by approach of electoral cycle, but not by the relations with the OSCE.
 
 
- President Medvedev recently noted that he couldn’t interfere into the legal procedures over Mikhail Khodorkovsky, how do you assess the situation?

Liliya Shevtsova: the fact that Mr. Medvedev states that he was not going to interfere into Khodorkovsky process, proves only that he acknowledges the existence of kangaroo court in Russian and he doesn’t at all intends to change the situation. This claim of Mr. Medvedev meant only one thing: he approves and legitimates this situation with unfair verdict towards Khodorkovsky.

Now Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania is the OSCE Chairman, and he, without doubt, will meet a really grave problem, as Russia wants to have with the OSCE only pragmatic relations and wishes to exclude or neutralize mechanism of monitoring the fair elections. Naturally Lithuania and other states, following European norms will face the problems related to that here in Russia there will be a situation of election results manipulation. This will be a problem for occurrence of contradictions between Russia and the OSCE.

Lithuania in our minds is a pretty unique Baltic state, as only it has ambitions of regional and probably general European scale. Only Lithuania in a union with Poland yet recently has been the factor of support of moral value standards inside the EU. Naturally, Russia within relations with Lithuania has not only pragmatic, economic, energy interest. For Russia it will be important the way Lithuania and other states will defend European rights and standards in the European Parliament. That is why we shouldn’t exclude this level of relations, where Lithuania has really significant achievements.

If policy of Lithuanian state changes in all aspects, concerning relations with Russia, then I can only express regret. In this case Lithuania as well as France and Germany, Italy and Brussels will refuse of norms dimension. This is really deplorably. But any case Lithuania as well as other Baltic states, having genetic understanding of the things happening in Russia, probably, can prove Brussels and other European capitals: guys, listen, restart we observe today is temporary. There can be very serious problems in Russia, and also within your relations with Russia. If Lithuania manage to persuade Brussels to have a strategic view, then probably Lithuania will contribute significantly into European policy. Pragmatism can’t be successful. It can be successful only within a short-term prospect, but not strategically.
 
 
- Mr. Lavrov said during the Press-Conference about the urgency of institutional reform of the OSCE. Do you think it can  become a plea for some changes desired by Russia within strategic view?

Liliya Shevtsova: The idea of the OSCE reforming is the favorite idea of Lavrov. The issue of the organization reforming is raised by the Kremlin repeatedly. And the idea is the following: liquidate the mechanism of monitoring of democracy, rights and elections in non-democratic states. Russia belongs to the number of non-democratic states. I hope that Europe although having turned to the way of immediate pragmatism, at least will avoid this shame – the OSCE reforms and will preserve ODIHR and other mechanisms of elections monitoring in our country. Europe has already made many steps towards cynical pragmatism.  I hope that it will restrain from another step.
 
 
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from ru.delfi.lt
 
 
16.02.2011