Will Conservatives ignore ‚Russian skeleton’ in Karbauskis’ wardrobe?

The Soft Russia's containment strategy first page
lrt.lt nuotr.

The Conservatives (TS-LKD) have taken a far more moderate stance today compared to when two years ago they released a party document titled “The Soft Russia‘s Containment Strategy” (Minkštoji Rusijos sulaikymo strategija“), among the contents of which there was a negative evaluation of the activities of Lithuanian Peasant and Greens Union (LVŽS) Chairman and businessman Ramūnas Karbauskis. Political analyst Vytautas Bruveris finds this to be a good example of politicians changing their views based on political conjecture LRT.lt reported.

“R. Karbauskis’ companies make hundreds of millions in annual profits from the sale of Russian nitrogen and potassium fertilisers. The companies of the Agrokoncernas group earned 782 million litas in profits in Lithuania and Latvia between 2012 and 2013. The income from fertiliser sales is the major and strategic portion of the company income. It is notable that the prospects of this business directly rely on the good will and moods of Russian business and political elites,” states the 2014 document.

Back then Karbauskis assured that those and similar Conservative statements are fraudulent and took former PM Andrius Kubilius to court over the claims. That said, the Vilnius City District Court ruled in favour of opposition leader A. Kubilius in the claim made by Karbauskis and UAB Agrokoncernas.

The prospects of a coalition negotiation between the LVŽS and TS-LKD are very real currently. What do the Conservatives think of the 2014 document and Karbauskis now?

Support the document, but prepared to negotiate

“Why would we have to distance ourselves from the document and why would we be unable to form a coalition due to it?” Mused one of its authors, Conservative veteran Rasa Juknevičienė “Much has changed since 2014. I imagine that following the Crimean annexation, Karbauskis will have changed his view of Russia. I expect so, at the very least I no longer hear anti-NATO rhetoric, as was the case in 2002. Many people change their minds, you have to ask him. We only pointed out facts.”

Juknevičienė points out that the document was prepared prior to the annexation of Crimea, while positions on Russia will become clearer when consolidating programmes.

“I do not see any anti-NATO sentiment or alternate views to the embargoes, sanctions or foreign policy approaches to Russia. In 2014 many thought differently. We were probably the only to speak differently, being called Russophobes. Not only Karbauskis, but the Social Democrats and the Liberals were criticising us,” Juknevičienė told LRT.lt.

TS-LKD fraction member Arvydas Anušauskas also does not see the document as an obstruction to negotiating with the LVŽS. Furthermore, party member’s opinions in the negotiation on the document differed as well.

“I held a somewhat different position, however one way or another the document does not lose its value because Russian capacities were outlined fairly clearly there. The individuals mentioned in the document do not automatically become some sort of agents of enemies. The document primarily aimed at showing what means Russia has to affect our domestic situation, whether it is – that’s a whole different question,” Anušauskas told LRT.lt.

R. Karbauskis: this was a big lesson to A. Kubilius

Remembering the TS-LKD document and related legal procedings, the LVŽS leader R. Karbauskis told LRT.lt that this was likely a big lesson to A. Kubilius because up until the last minute he was unaware of what ruling the court will take.

“However the court was not willing to make a decision which would result in a fine. But what he did in court… it is unfortunate that nobody is interested in it now. Have you heard A. Kubilius bring up any sort of claim of pro-Russian sentiments after the trial? At court he defended himself by claiming that he did not intend to suggest anything, had no data. Truly very odd statements, when there is nothing to base it on.

It even mentioned a State Security Department report and the court requested said report. We were not shown it, but the judge said that there is no surname, no company name in there,” retold Karbauskis.

The LVŽS leader also stressed that he never opposed entry to NATO or the EU.

“Mrs. Juknevičienė had herself forgotten that in 2004 I was in Seimas and voted same as her, to enter NATO. There is not a single article or statement by me where I would have ever spoken against entering NATO. Everything happening from their side now is simply the manufacturing of some sort of version.

There are other myths, for example one of me being against the EU. When have I ever been against the EU? Find such a text. The only thing I ever said was that we need to negotiate. If negotiating means speaking against the EU, excuse me, but that is rather odd. This is just an attempt in shaping public opinion,” R. Karbauskis told LRT.lt.

According to him, it will be necessary to negotiate with everyone anyway because there is an option of a “grand coalition”, which would be comprised of professionals. But in it, Karbauskis alludes, there is hardly any place for former Minister of National Defence Juknevičienė.

“I can hardly imagine R. Juknevičienė in the cabinet. If there was a coalition agreement, I can hardly imagine a person who absolutely despises his partner work hand in hand for the benefit of Lithuania. She is rather irresponsible with her words because authority is a very important goal. Overall if the people do not trust us enough and do not elect a strong fraction, we could stay in the opposition. I see no problem with it,” commented Karbauskis.

V. Bruveris: the Conservatives have long wanted to escape it

Political analyst for the Lietuvos Rytas newspaper V. Bruveris believes that this is a good example of politicians changing their opinions to political phenomena based on political conjecture.
“The Conservatives have long wanted to escape this thing. Talks of them potentially returning to power in partnership with the “Peasants” have been around for a long time. The nation immediately remembered that, according to one classic, writings don’t burn. Then the Conservatives, I believe party leader Gabrielius Landsbergis, spoke that the LVŽS and Karbauskis have perhaps changed, that those things have to be put aside in favour of more important things – state interests,” stated V. Bruveris.

The analyst states that at the negotiation table there will likely narratives of Karbauskis appearing as a real Lithuanian patriot, who thinks about everything correctly. According to Bruveris, as usual everything will be justified through state interests “To the inherent question of whether you can go picking apples with the devil in the name of state interest, I assume will be left unanswered again,” the expert added.

TS-LKD, Bruveris states, has endeavoured to bypass this topic and will continue to do so because they cannot afford to annoy Karbauskis, the way that fairly recently the followers of Social Democrat Algirdas Butkevičius did, speaking of Karbauskis’ fertiliser and pesticides. “In this regard the Conservatives and their little leader are acting more pragmatically because they understand that they will not take power without Karbauskis and the “Peasants”,” summarised Bruveris.

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