2006-01-06 05:06:00
Embassy Vilnius
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E.O. 12958: N/A






E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Congressman Sensenbrenner, on behalf of Ambassador
Stephen Mull and our colleagues at the U.S. Mission in
Vilnius, thank you for traveling to Lithuania. Your visit
here will provide an opportunity to show gratitude to
Lithuania for its staunch and unwavering support in the
U.S.-led Global War on Terror. It will also afford the
Lithuanians an occasion to discuss high-profile migration
and travel issues with the most authoritative possible
interlocutor. Planned meetings with President Adamkus,
Speaker of Parliament Paulauskas, Foreign Minister
Valionis, and Interior Minister Furmanavicius will afford
you the chance to discuss visa policy and to celebrate and
strengthen the already exceptionally friendly bilateral
relations the United States shares with Lithuania.

Lithuanian History in Brief

2. The rich culture of Lithuania goes back more than two
thousand years. Lithuanians are a branch of the Balts, who
probably settled in the region around 200 B.C. Lithuanian
is one of the oldest languages in Europe. The first
written mention of Lithuania was in the Annales
Quedlinburgenses in 1009 A.D.

3. The Grand Duke Mindaugas established the first
Lithuanian state in 1230. He converted to Christianity
briefly and was crowned king of Lithuania in 1252. The
Grand Duke Gediminas, who reigned from 1316 to 1341, is
credited with founding Vilnius, at the confluence of the
Neris and Vilnia rivers, and a dynasty that united
Lithuania and Poland from 1386 until 1795.

4. Lithuania progressively entered European culture. At
the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom
was formally merged into a commonwealth headed by a
monarch. This union came under threat from Prussia,
Austria, and Russia at the end of the 18th century. In
1795, Russia annexed most of Lithuania and tried to impose
Russian culture.

5. On February 16, 1918, Lithuania regained its
independence and restored its statehood. Lithuania
remained free for only 22 years. In 1940, the Soviet Union
occupied Lithuania; Nazi Germany overran the country the
following year; and the Soviets returned in 1944. Armed

resistance against the Soviets continued for several years
after the end of World War II. For more than 50 years
under the Soviets, Lithuanians held onto the goal of

6. In February 1990, the anti-Communist popular movement
Sajudis won an overwhelming majority in free parliamentary
elections. That March, the Supreme Council, under the
leadership of Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, restored
Lithuania's independence. Lithuania became a member of the
United Nations on September 17, 1991. The last Soviet
soldier left in August 1993. In April 2004, Lithuania
joined NATO. In May 2004, Lithuania became a member of the
European Union.


7. Rapid economic growth and development characterize
Lithuania's trajectory from Soviet occupation to a maturing
democracy and free-market economy. Politically, Lithuania
strives to deepen the transatlantic alliance and present
itself as an active participant in international political
fora. Our coalition partner in Iraq, ally in the United
Nations and NATO, and a leading exporter of democracy in a
difficult neighborhood, Lithuania has risen to donor status
farther afield in Iraq and Sudan. Lithuania's footprint
goes far beyond what one would expect from a country of
such small size (population 3.5 million) and with such a
short time on the field. On the home front, Lithuania
weathered a turbulent presidential impeachment in 2004 that
put the young democracy under international scrutiny.
Closely adhering to transparent democratic principles and
procedures, Lithuania returned a centrist, unifying figure
to the presidency.

Growing Pains of a Maturing Democracy

8. Lithuania inaugurated Valdas Adamkus on July 12, 2004 as
its fourth president since the restoration of independence
in 1991. Adamkus, a former American citizen, previously
served as president from 1997 to 2002, when he lost his bid
for reelection to populist Rolandas Paksas. Adamkus
regained the presidency following Paksas' impeachment and
removal from office in April 2004 in proceedings that
rocked the nation and tested the democratic institutions of
the young republic. Lithuania thereby obtained the dubious
distinction of being the only European democracy to have
removed its head of state. The process was bumpy, but
largely transparent and democratic. In the aftermath of
the impeachment, Lithuania played out a highly charged
contest for the presidency that pitted the centrist Adamkus
against a candidate whose populist agenda promoted
increased social spending, reconsideration of Lithuania's
participation in Iraq, and, most notably, decreased U.S.
influence in Europe. Adamkus cast his victory in this
contest as confirmation of a foreign policy agenda that
highlights the importance of the U.S. presence in Lithuania
and Europe.

9. Lithuanian voters widely supported the country's
entrance into the European Union and NATO in 2004. These
memberships were the first steps in Lithuania's long-term
political strategy that envisions a leadership role in OSCE
and ECOSOC, membership in OECD, and active participation in
NATO and the EU.

Growing Economy

10. Lithuania is one of the fastest growing economies in
Europe. The country's robust economic growth continues,
having slowed from 9.7 percent GDP growth in 2003 to a
still enviable seven percent increase in 2004. GDP through
the first three quarters of 2005 stood at 6.9 percent.
Analysts forecast annual average real GDP growth of 6
percent in 2006. Domestic demand will continue to drive
economic growth, as households benefit from wage increases,
falling unemployment, and low interest rates. Lithuania
looks to attract foreign investment to sustain long-term
growth, which complements our own objective of attracting
more U.S. investment to this dynamic economy. The United
States runs a trade deficit with Lithuania, with imports
exceeding U.S. exports by about USD 144 million in 2004.

11. Uncertainty surrounds the future of the Lithuania's
Mazeikiu Nafta (MN) oil refinery, currently under
management of the major shareholder Yukos. MN accounts for
two percent of GDP and is one of the largest employers in
the country. All of the leading candidates to purchase the
refinery, including the U.S. firm ConocoPhillips, have ties
to Russian energy companies. Continued economic growth
depends to a large extent on the ability of the oil
refinery, terminal, and pipeline complex to maintain stable
supplies of oil.

An Enemy of Lithuania is an Enemy of the U.S.

12. Common values, a history of mutual support, and common
goals for regional security bind Lithuania and the United
States. Lithuania continues to recognize a debt of
gratitude to the United States for having maintained a
policy of non-recognition of Baltic annexation throughout
the years of Soviet occupation. Following the restoration
of Lithuania's independence, the United States cemented the
friendship, providing political and financial support to
Lithuania, welcoming the country into the transatlantic
alliance, and supporting Lithuanian membership in NATO and
the European Union.

13. Lithuania is a reliable transatlantic partner and a
strong advocate of NATO's central role in ensuring security
in the Euro-Atlantic area. As a new member of NATO,
Lithuania has politically and materially supported the
alliance's international missions. Lithuania currently has
boots on the ground in Afghanistan in support of ISAF, and
leads a multinational Provincial Reconstruction Team in
Chagcharan in Afghanistan's remote Ghowr province. In
Iraq, Lithuanian soldiers serving under Danish and Polish
command conduct patrols assist in maintaining public order
and are involved with rebuilding and reconstruction
efforts. British, Danish, and Polish commanders have all
commended Lithuanian soldiers' skills and professionalism.
The Lithuanian Parliament has already authorized these
international deployments through the end of 2007.
Lithuanian soldiers have also performed admirably as
peacekeepers in the Balkans. This year, they will begin
serving with Polish and Ukrainian personnel in a joint
peacekeeping battalion in Kosovo.

A Friend to the U.S. in Time of Need

14. Lithuania offered more than 8,000 food rations, ten
water pumps, and medical supplies to victims of Hurricane
Katrina. (Ultimately, FEMA decided that the assistance was
not required.) The Lithuanian Red Cross raised more than
$16,000 in private donations; one elderly woman donated her
entire life savings to the relief effort in gratitude for
U.S. support for Lithuania.
Lithuania Active in the "Near Abroad"

15. Lithuania's accession to the European Union and NATO
opened new opportunities for the GOL to engage with its
neighbors to the east, most notably in the context of the
EU's "New Neighborhood" policy. Leveraging its historical
experience as part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania seeks to
assist the transition by former Soviet states to democracy
and integration into European institutions such as the EU
and NATO. In Belarus, Lithuanian governmental and non-
governmental organizations work with nascent democratic
forces both bilaterally and through regional frameworks
such as e-PINE. President Adamkus was instrumental in
mediating the election crisis in Ukraine, and Lithuania is
one of the most vocal advocates for Ukraine's bid to become
a member of the EU and NATO. Lithuania supports Moldova's
aspiration to join the EU and encourages the countries of
the South Caucasus to pursue European integration.

Lithuanian-Russian Relations

16. Lithuania works hard to maintain good relations with
Russia. Mutual interests in transit, energy, and security
issues attract high-level attention in both Vilnius and
Moscow. GOL and GOR leaders periodically convene an
intergovernmental council to discuss concerns. The
September 15, 2005 incursion and crash of a Russian SU-27
fighter-bomber in Lithuania's territory tested Lithuanian-
Russian relations. Despite public expressions of pique
from officials and politicians in both capitals, however,
both governments maintain the episode will not have a
lasting impact on bilateral relations. (The armed aircraft
was part of a six-jet convoy traveling from St. Petersburg
to Kaliningrad when it apparently experienced navigational
problems, ran out of fuel, and crashed 90 miles west of
Vilnius. The Russian pilot, who safely ejected, was placed
under house arrest and questioned by Lithuanian authorities
before returning to Russia.) The issue has refocused
public attention on the role and importance of NATO's
Baltic air-policing mission for the region. American F-16s
assumed command of this mission October 1,2005. Polish
fighters relieved our forces here on December 30, 2005.

The Special Lithuanian-U.S. Relationship

17. Starting in the 19th century, a flood of Lithuanians
fled poverty and oppression in their homeland and
immigrated to the United States. These longstanding ties
of family and culture remain strong, and the Lithuanian-
American community is well-organized and active. After
World War II, Lithuanians received decisive moral support
from the United States, which refused to recognize the
Soviet annexation of Lithuania. After regaining their
independence, Lithuanians have continued to view our
country more favorably that most Western Europeans. This
reflects longstanding goodwill toward the United States as
well as the widely held view that the United States
presents the only credible defense against recrudescent
domination from the east.

Migration and Border Security Issues

18. More than a century of emigration to the United States
means that migration remains one of the most prominent
issues in the bilateral relationship. As many as 2,100
Lithuanians have emigrated to the U.S. permanently in
recent years, most of them via the Diversity Visa program.
Upwards of 9,500 Lithuanians apply for nonimmigrant visas
each year, and Lithuania has one of the largest Summer Work
and Travel (J visa) programs per capita in the world. The
subject of visas arises frequently in official meetings and
in the press, and you will likely be asked about
Lithuania's prospects for inclusion in the Visa Waiver
Program (VWP).

19. Lithuania was one of several Eastern European
countries to develop a Visa Waiver Roadmap (VWR) last year.
Announced in April 2005, Lithuania's VWR aims to help
Lithuania meet the VWP's legal requirements, and the
Government of Lithuania and Embassy work actively to that
end. Our efforts to date have focused on a public outreach
campaign to encourage proper use of U.S. visas and
cooperation on timely reporting of lost and stolen

20. As a border state, Lithuania understands its role in
securing the borders of the EU. The USG has provided
financial and technical support to combat smuggling and,
especially, proliferation. Unfortunately, Lithuanian
passports have proven to be a document of choice for
forgers and imposters in Europe, which the Government of
Lithuania is working to address. Several of the briefings
during your visit will discuss this subject.

Preview of Your Visit

21. Ambassador Mull, who is currently on travel, will host
a country-team briefing at the beginning of your stay, and
a dinner and a reception in your honor featuring
Lithuania's best and brightest. We've also confirmed
meetings for you with the President, the Speaker of
Parliament, and the Interior and Foreign Ministers. All of
us here at Embassy Vilnius very much look forward to your
visit. We'll see you on Tuesday!