I recently got acquainted with young professor T. Janeliūnas’ study D. Grybauskaitė’s Doctrine: Changes in Lithuanian Foreign Policy 2009-2019. It is a professional, business-like and well-written analysis of Lithuanian foreign policy during years of matriarchal state governance, Mečys Laurinkus wrote in Lrytas.lt
I picked up the book with caution, afraid that it could be a praising ode to D. Grybauskaitė’s exploits. I’ve already seen two such odes. Yes, T. Janeliūnas is a fan of D. Grybauskaitė‘s work, including her foreign policy, but the text did not turn into adulation. Quite the contrary, it turned out to be solid and new among essays on a similar topic that is often a distant topic to the common citizen. This text can be placed alongside efforts to reduce the distance between the so-called great and everyday politics.
Of course, one must admit that the distance will not shrink to the point where foreign policy questions will surpass social topics in importance during an electoral campaign. What do we markedly remember, with half a year passed since the presidential election show, from debates on Lithuanian foreign policy? If we were asked to even approximately quote, what each of the candidates spoke on it, hands could be raised immediately.
By the way, D. Grybauskaitė too entered the highest state office not with any foreign policy doctrine, but with a criticism of the G. Kirkilas cabinet’s domestic policy she expressed in a brusque tone. Many in Lithuania enjoy such a tone and describe it as directly telling the truth.
The book often mentions D. Grybauskaitė’s firm style in international fora, but somehow, perhaps due to the more detailed description of the background, the chosen unusual form of communication seemingly proves justified.
Analysing foreign policy in a way where even the layperson can understand, what actually was and is, is very difficult, because the official, declared policy begins with a few abstract phrases and ends with them. It would be weird, after all, if heads of state began talking about events behind the scenes, where the real decisions are made.
This specific part remains an unknown for the public, perhaps only revealed in many years and, of course, not in full or even distorted. T. Janeliūnas’ book does not limit itself to official texts, but sometimes intriguingly reveals that decisions emerge and find their way in the forums of influential state policy stars.
Official positions, views presented in the most typical stone-faced bureaucratic speak, this is necessary for foreign politics, however, the largest part of work is left to connections, acquaintances and even so-called chemistry between leaders of the state. Not to even speak of the classical principle of first among equals and it is no secret that many a country’s representative studies to stay mum at the right time.
What does the former head of state’s foreign policy look, not only after reading T. Janeliūnas’ book but also objectively reflecting on the decade? D. Grybauskaitė, just as the other presidents after restored independence, energetically headed toward the West, in which direction Lithuania’s future leaders too will bring Lithuania until Western civilisation falls.
The Lithuanian people, well aware of what it means to be in the East, would go to the West even without the aid of presidents, but out of respect to tradition agree on someone to be at the front of the column. However, if any single president ever decided to change direction, they would be trampled right away.
Thus, no Lithuanian head of state ever has had or will have questions of what direction to lead the nation. Only one question remains – how? Slowly, quickly, effectively, safely.
D. Grybauskaitė, a patriot of the EU, but not a fanatic of it (the texts chosen by T. Janeliūnas testify that she did not strive for the idea of a European federation) and that’s what she did – urged the West to integrate quicker, more effectively, without snoozing and instead employing all possible measures, not avoiding to fight for national interests within the Eurobureaucratic system.
The political scientist included some interesting statements by D. Grybauskaitė, where rapid Western integration is valued more than Eastern Partnership Policy or the surreal Lithuanian efforts to become a regional leader.
The path of ten years is not brief and of course, there were stops in it, where discussions would flare up between political scientists and commentators of how to evaluate the passages of D. Grybauskaitė’s foreign policy. I remember well the wide-open eyes of political analysts, looking at D. Grybauskaitė and A. Lukashenko standing under one umbrella. Some wariness emerged because of a phone call to then Russian President D. Medvedev.
That said, the batteries of the Russian and Belarussian relationship reboots soon ran out and D. Grybauskaitė got back on track. I believe that the reboot with Minsk had to continue. Perhaps then we would not have such a massive headache over Astravyets NPP now.
Another acute stop for discussions is D. Grybauskaitė’s refusal to participate in a lunch with US President B. Obama in Prague, which caused an avalanche of criticism. T. Janeliūnas partially defends the president’s decision. How do you act when you see that behind your back, the USA and Russia seemingly have started sharing out zones of influence?
As one of D. Grybauskaitė‘s greatest achievements, T. Janeliūnas names her struggle for defence plans. It turns out that after five years of NATO membership, somehow they didn’t exist in not only Lithuania. By the way, I long believed that this achievement was artificially attributed to the president in order to amplify her achievements. T. Janeliūnas showed how difficult the fight for our state interests is even among friendly countries. Sometimes telling the truth straight up helps and D. Grybauskaitė did not need to study up on that.
There were other stops – relations with Poland, the pivot to the North, the LNG terminal. Much discussion is available there – victories, unsuccessful or empty works. And does intuition alone suffice in foreign policy? Whatever we may talk about it, without T. Janeliūnas’ study, it would be harder to formulate objective evaluations.