Pavilionis on Moscow’s hand in preventing Conservatives from joining coalition

Žygimantas Pavilionis
DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

Žygimantas Pavilionis, former Lithuanian ambassador to the United States and now Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrat (TS-LKD) member of Seimas has stated that he believes the Conservatives have yielded to Moscow’s machinations by refusing to join a coalition with the Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS). The politician was one of those speaking in favour of negotiating with the Peasant Greens. He says he cannot fathom what happened in the party and why the Conservative leadership changed its rhetoric toward a coalition with the Peasant Greens so radically.

Pavilionis says that in terms of the state, a coalition between the Peasant Greens and the Social Democrats (LSDP) is a greater evil. He is critical of the constant escalation of Ramūnas Karbauskis’ true or supposed connections with Russia and believes that the supposed information from Ukraine could be from a different country, further to the East.

“I believe that Moscow has done all it could to prevent the Conservatives from joining this coalition. And I am disheartened to see that people from both sides gave in to these machinations,” Ž. Pavilionis said in an interview with Delfi.

– Mister Pavilionis, your name appeared among those who spoke up for a Conservative-“Peasant” coalition. There were even rumours out that you were personally negotiating with Ramūnas Karbauskis and were seeking contact.

After the presidium I have had to deny a number of times that I definitely did not negotiate and had no contact with Mr. R. Karbauskis after the second round of elections because in the end I do not formally belong to any negotiation or consultation group. Furthermore I had no informal or individual contact.

That my opinion is quoted among those “for” the necessity to take responsibility for Lithuania, for the future, then yes. Even now I believe that if the “Peasants” seriously negotiated with us (as was said in the presidium), if they left their Social Democrat partners, we could negotiate on a firm coalition.

I believe our people are strong, experienced professionals and, if we all truly think of Lithuania and what will happen over those four years, then I think this responsibility should be shared and we should help one another. I understand that many think of personal or party interests, but I, as a professional who has worked in the name of Lithuania for twenty five years, having helped to integrate her into the West, having worked with various threats both in the East and West, am uneasy, as to what will happen with Lithuania in the coming four years.

I am uneasy that we are passing her into the hands of less experienced people who have fewer connections with the West and more with the East, to representatives of the nomenclature, who are known for various scandals and a weakness to money.

I am simply uneasy because I am hearing talks of an abolished Ministry of Energy, I am hearing about proposals to destroy the Energy Security Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while at the same time I see a second reactor frame being transported to Astravyets.

Since I made a great personal effort to help collect those 65 thousand signatures and earnestly believed that we can stop that monster, if we combined our strength with the “Peasants”, who by the way also support the idea, that that nuclear power plant should not exist; I somehow thought that we could reach the result together. I continue to think it is possible, if we look at what is happening around us seriously.

– Why were you labelled a renegade then?

I don’t know. One of the commentators on Facebook accurately observed that it is Russian rhetoric. You see, Vladimir Putin speaks similarly about those who do not agree with his opinion. I was born into a family where we have very different political views, but somehow we managed to keep dignity, decorum and respect to one another. Even if we have those differing opinions.

I think that over 26 years we should somehow get used to such a thing as “democracy” and “variety of opinion”. You see, in the East it is usual to send the opposition to jail and call it various names, blemish its reputation. But that is simply dishonest political games. The people who do this only show their weakness, that’s all.

– Why do you think a split of opinion about forming a coalition with the “Peasants” happened in your party? Initially there seemed very few obstructions to forming a coalition. At least that is what Chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis was clearly declaring prior to the second round of elections. After the second round, however, the situation changed, a split of opinion happened in the party. Why? What is the main reason?

This is something I honestly still do not understand, why this split happened. To my voters, even those “Peasant” voters, who supported me in the second round, I spoke of a coalition. The Peasant Greens candidate Dovilė Šakalienė was one of my stronger competitors, she often visited abroad, often left an impression as a fighter for human rights, we get along well with her even now. I think we would be able to combine our strength in certain questions of human dignity because I think that human rights are up to now still one of the least focused on things in the political agenda after 26 years of independence.

Even looking as a political scientist, it is very interesting because we and the “Peasants” are some of the youngest parties in Seimas, even the Liberals are older if we look at the average age of Seimas members. I have experienced that among young people, even if they have different views, I have managed to come to a mutual understanding (for example with Gintautas Paluckas, who was not rated up by the Social Democrats). This is particularly so if you think of the common good, mutual interests and the state.

At least in foreign policy I have acquired a capacity to merge the interests of various parties in the name of national interest. We have achieved much because of this.

Why did we suddenly lose this capacity in the 26th year of independence, the ability to see the broader picture, to see the future, I do not understand and am still trying to figure it out in the party.

– So it’s a secret to you, why the Conservative’s stance on partnering with the Peasant Greens changed?

I am simply trying to understand it rationally. I have a master’s degree in philosophy, a doctorate in political science, I am convinced by rational arguments, and I prefer the language of intellect, not emotion. Furthermore I am a fighter, I have a black belt and know that after a blow, strength is demonstrated in whether the person is able to stand up and fight on. As a political scientist, I am trying to understand what happened here and it is not understandable based on rational arguments.
I think that if, as negotiators, we sat down seriously, without demeaning one another, without disdain, but instead with respect, despite having different positions in a number of questions, I believe that we could have come to terms.

I am still convinced that it could be done because you see, the alternative is a greater evil to Lithuania. I think that the Peasant and Reds coalition is a greater evil to Lithuania – less initiative, less looking to the West, fewer connections with the West, which I think is vital.

Imagined after a week you will perhaps invite me for an interview and ask – what happens if Donald Trump becomes the President of the USA? I still don’t know what will happen because Minister Linas Linkevičius still hasn’t heeded my warning that it is worth investing not only into the left, but also the right in the US, that it is worth preparing channels for communication which this government does not have and won’t have for some time yet. Meanwhile we, the leftists, have them. And we would have used them in the name of Lithuania in order to protect her from the threats which could definitely arise.

We know that next year Russia is preparing for its largest strategic military exercises Zapad 2017, which will involve hundreds of thousands of troops around our borders. Well, I am definitely concerned with such leaders – I do not know how they will react, who they will call. I know that they have who to call in Moscow, but I’m not sure if they have anyone to call in Washington.

– You mentioned demeaning partners. What do you mean specifically?

I won’t speak personally, I will simply say that my first steps in the Seimas have shocked me somewhat, shocked me through a lack of political culture. Perhaps because my twenty five years working with public servants and diplomats who have all obtained educations in the independent Lithuanian or Western higher education institutions.

But in diplomatic service, mutual respect is the basis, even if interests differ. We never get personal, we always look at the essence and try to understand the opponent’s interests, try to understand what basis for compromise there is. Perhaps the culture is different.

As far as I understand so far in the Seimas there is little such mutual respect, not mentioning specific names. Mostly it is dominated by individual or party interest and this surprises me. I hope that this culture can be changed by our strengths combined.

– Are you speaking of the consultations with the Peasant and Greens Union or the internal discussions in the Homeland Union?

About everything.

– In your opinion, is the Homeland Union’s position regarding partnering with the “Peasants” final and mean that in the end the Peasant and Greens Union will form a coalition with the Social Democrats and that the TS-LKD will be left in the opposition?

Well, no-one is saying so. The presidium meeting stated that we remain open for consultations if the “Peasants” turn to us and cease negotiating with the Social Democrats. The possibility, at least formally, remains.

Beyond that, whether either side has enough commitment, whether that commitment will be displayed, I am starting to doubt. I think that perhaps it won’t. And I am very sorry, very sorry for the state that we are unable to think in terms of the state. It is unfortunate that we are thinking so narrowly.

I understand that some parties want to profit, split wealth without thinking about either their own or the party’s future, but I am sorry even for them. Even the Social Democrats themselves could be a solid party if they renewed themselves, if people like Paluckas took the lead. Then a sort of political stability would be regained.

Now everyone is rushing for profit without thinking about Lithuania, I am disheartened seeing the future coalition which will achieve nothing and we will have another four lost years. The leaders who spend those years, however, will have to take up the moral responsibility for what will happen during them.

– During the consultations, the Homeland Union requested that if an agreement was signed, the signatories should be checked by the special services. In your opinion, does this indicate an interest in negotiating or lack of?

Well, I believe that this question is already out of the way. I do not think that it was necessary to escalate it. I believe that we became the playthings of certain special services. I won’t mention specific states, but we shouldn’t get hooked like this. There are procedures, there are services which investigate, but we shouldn’t involve them into the political processes.

– As far as I understand there was some sort of catch?

There was some sort, but if one exists, then it needs to be tested five times before using. Because very often you can get caught on the hook yourself.

– Are you talking about the talks of information from Ukrainian special services on the potential connections between R. Karbauskis and Russia?

I have heard something about it, but what services – those of Ukraine or those of further to the East – that leaves me with much doubt. We shouldn’t use these games in our political dialogue with partners, particularly potential coalition partners.

– How do you view the moral situation in the party? Externally it appeared as a clear conflict. Will party members manage to work together, will coordination exist?

I do not know. In the presidium we had an excellent exchange in opinions, but it happened greatly belatedly. But if such a tradition continues, if we continue to listen to others, if we keep seeking consensus, it is likely it will all be fine. I believe that we will find it in ourselves to defeat these post-Soviet complexes of not listening to one another.

You see if we do not defeat the Asia inside of us, then the other Asia will use this, seeing our weakness and inability to value one another’s opinions. The KGB are some of the best psychologists in special services and they definitely know how to use our weaknesses, so that we sometimes become their instruments without even knowing.

I think Moscow has done all it could to ensure the Conservatives are not present in this coalition. I am disheartened to see that people from both sides have yielded to these games.

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