My personal position on the relations of some potential candidates for President of Lithuania with Russia has given rise to a series of debates and cast doubt as to whether or not what I say and, actually, what I think is merely part of a biased political game.
First, let me start with a few words on objectivity, reality and principles.
I do understand that a large proportion of Lithuanian people want a real discussion on poverty reduction and income growth. Constant debates on who is more pro-Russian are getting increasingly more boring, since they lose their acuity and their meaning is being compromised. I am not against politicians speaking mainly about domestic policy, but only on condition that we maintain consensus on foreign policy matters, which our security and future are directly dependent on. This has not unfortunately been the case yet. Breaking the consensus might affect all domestic policies and our future; the debate on foreign policy, therefore, proves to be inevitable.
When I refer to consensus on foreign policy, I first and foremost have in mind the recognition that by defending themselves, Georgia, which was previously subjected to attacks, and Ukraine, the country currently under aggression, in fact stand in our defence, too. It is this perception that is sometimes lacking in our society. Therefore, politicians and public figures owe a general duty to the citizens to explain the correlation. But as long as politicians, instead of performing the duty, succumb to the idea that Crimea is lost and that a new line should be drawn in relations with Russia, thus accepting Russia as it is, I cannot remain silent.
Russia must be subjected to the most severe sanctions possible until it ceases the occupation of Georgia and Ukraine. All potential talks with Russia on the so-called “own national interests” do not merely constitute a breach of solidarity. They also represent a betrayal of our own principal national interests and those of the occupied countries, period.
I have always treated everyone who has crossed the red line as pro-Russian politicians. And that is how I intend to treat them in the future. I would like to stress, however, that I do not claim that all pro-Russian politicians are Kremlin-paid agents. Perhaps none of them are. It is extremely difficult to break down the complex schemes Russia employs to fund one or another project. It might take years to do so. But I do believe that the politicians of the kind are the ones who are nowadays commonly referred to as Russia’s “useful idiots”.
I welcome a debate. And if there is a case to discuss, I call for debate. Lithuania is a democracy where every “useful idiot” has the right to freely express his opinion, which is then gladly circulated by some media representatives. Within this context, I thus have the right and feel compelled to voice and defend my opinion on the claims concerning “useful idiots”.
I have been and will continue to be a staunch advocate of the state’s national interests. I have said that as many as three presidential candidates might actually benefit the Kremlin, because their rhetoric parrots Putin‘s propaganda lines in that it purportedly is in the interests of the state to improve the relations with Russia on pragmatic grounds and seek only economic advantage. Meanwhile, their concern over the security of such countries as Georgia or Ukraine is of secondary importance, because what is happening there is at a distance well away from our borders. Phrases such as “one must understand Russia”, “one cannot change Russia”, or “one needs to accept Russia as it is” (and does it also mean to include all its current and future occupied territories and zones of influence?) is what we tend to hear from them.
Anyone even slightly following politics and current affairs will, perhaps, agree that the words, and even the deeds, of Vytenis Andriukaitis and Saulius Skvernelis are often directed eastwards. Their rhetoric and real policy towards the closure of the Astravyets nuclear power plant are just but a few possible illustrations of that. Both politicians hold important positions, which are on the international radar, where one of them is an EU Commissioner and the other is the Prime Minister. None of them have yet been elected President of the Republic and, hopefully, none of the will be. A similar or even the same rhetoric was adopted by Ušackas on several occasions. It did not take a superb expert to notice this without any difficulty. It was enough to take even a slight interest in politics or refuse to turn a blind eye solely out of amiability or personal liking to see this. There were those who tried to bring closure to the matter and called for leaving the past behind, as blaming Ušackas for his constant representation of the Kremlin’s interests was considered as being too harsh. I have often been asked why I am making an attack on a party insider. After all, he was a Conservative minister. And finally, “where is the evidence?” they ask.
In my view, appointing Vygaudas Ušackas as Conservative foreign minister was a mistake, which, as history later showed, was rectified by President Dalia Grybauskaitė.
As for the evidence, I have the proof. I have already spoken of some in general terms. However, the time for disclosure, including evidence subject to state secrets, has not come yet.
A brief reminder.
After the expiry of the term of office of President Valdas Adamkus, I, in my capacity as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, was called in by Ušackas. He told me that my “cover” (and that was exactly the term he used) had already retired and that new times had come, meaning that we were not going to defend democracies any longer but rather engage pragmatically with Putin and Lukashenko to follow suit of the entire modern world, for example, US President Obama or Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski.
Later, I was deprived entirely of the possibility to engage in active politics because my whole political and diplomatic life was consistently devoted to defending freedom and democracy. A horde of businessmen related to Russia started flocking around the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ušackas, with some of them still in close vicinity to him.
Prior to his membership of the Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats in 2010, a memorandum by Ušackas came to light. The memorandum elaborated on the end of the obsolete value-based politics of Vytautas Landsbergis and Valdas Adamkus and the need to move to the Londongrad-type pragmatic approach of the Brits in their relations with Russia. It is for the disclosure of the memorandum that Ušackas has not forgiven me yet. Moreover, President Grybauskaitė was implicated in a routine “reset” of relations with Russia. The “resetting” efforts promoted by Ušackas since the era of Viktoras Uspaskich, however, soon ended, as the President figured out what type of person she had to deal with.
Efforts to sound out the potential for improvement of the relations between Lithuania and Russia at the expense of national interests continued following Ušackas’ departure for Moscow and upon his return to Lithuania. They have continued to the present day.
Some tend to downplay this, as they might be thinking that he will not be elected anyway. Maybe…
But here is another untold story. Upon the conclusion of the most ardent battles in Georgia, one Lithuanian minister was sent to Tbilisi for consultations. After a certain period of time the President’s Office in Lithuania received a call from the Georgian security services with an unequivocal request to recall the minister, for he was consulting Putin rather than the Georgians. It appeared that the Georgian security services, as part of Russia’s communication surveillance, intercepted a telephone conversation (presumably, made from the lavatory) between the minister and Admiral Yuri Zubakov, one of the most influential Russian intelligence agents from the GRU (the Russian foreign intelligence service) and former ambassador to Lithuania. So it seemed that while being in Georgia, the Lithuanian minister coordinated positions with Moscow. It is hard to believe this, isn’t it? Rumours surrounding the minister’s friendship with Zubakov are still flying around.
I will conclude by simply saying that I try to remain politically correct with regard to my opponents and I will not resort to petty personal insults. This does not mean, however, that I will stay equally politically correct in the face of challenges to the national interests, irrespective of whether they are related to domestic or external policies.
People have the right to know their true heroes, including through exposure to criticism. This does not only represent a mere “ridiculous” fight between Žygis [abbreviation from Žygimantas] and Vygis [abbreviation from Vygaudas], but rather a divide in the approach as to whether or not a value-based politics has ended.