Lithuanian Lobby Must Be Stopped

Viktor Alksnis, RF Duma deputy representing the Russian Regions spoke at the parliamentary hearings devoted to the Kaliningrad problem. He spoke of international and geopolitical aspects of Russia’s national security.

I would like to start with a quotation. Last week, an influential Danish newspaper close to governmental circles published an article dedicated to the Russian city of Kaliningrad. The newspaper suggests its conclusion saying that Russians should return to Russia, so that the Kaliningrad region can be turned into an autonomous district of the European Union; at that, Poland, Lithuania, and probably Germany may establish unified control over it.

Unfortunately, the situation with Kaliningrad resembles the popular Russian saying that it’s late to try and improve something when it’s too late to improve. My opinion is that the parliamentary hearings we are currently having should have been held in September 1991, when the decision on independence of the Soviet Baltic republics was hastily made. And now, when we take up the documents concluded with Lithuania, and with Poland as well, within the past ten years, we become shocked with the dilettantism of federal officials who worked on the documents. It is already known that gross mistakes had been committed by the Foreign Ministry when the treaty on the Lithuanian state border was developed. It is strange, but not a single official from the Foreign Ministry who worked on the document was punished. Unfortunately, such mistakes still occur today.

I personally was shocked when I heard the recent statement made by the Russian president that Russia welcomes EU expansion to the East. Wait a minute! However that may be, I always believed that each state has its own sphere of interests. No matter what they say, the Baltic republics are in the sphere of Russia’s vivid interests. Does this mean that, if Russia voluntarily gives away its sphere of interests to its economic rival, the European Union, it is quitting the sphere itself? It would be quite OK if the president said: settle the Kaliningrad problem first, and then we will approve of the EU expansion eastward. But, in fact, the problem has been turned upside down.

I support those deputies who say that Russia should have taken a firm stance concerning EU expansion. Indeed, Russia hasn’t reached an agreement with Lithuania yet; Russia is working with Lithuania itself in order to protect its interests concerning transit, including to the Kaliningrad region. In this case, the European Union should think carefully how it is going to adopt Lithuania when the problem of Russian freight transit isn’t settled there. Unfortunately, nothing of this kind was done and isn’t currently being done either.

The main reason why the situation with Kaliningrad is developing in this way is the lack of political will. No armored divisions or the Baltic Fleet are necessary to settle the transit problem. Unfortunately, the majority of the Russian leadership lacks strong political will, which is really very important to settle this problem.

It is sad that there are people among the EU leadershipwho are inimical toward the Kaliningrad region; unfortunately, there are also some in the Russian government.

When we have a look at the federal budget of 2003, we can see that it contains a really profitable entry: a fund for regional development. What are the figures that the RF government set aside for the fund in the budget, the fund which is to serve as considerable support to the budgets in the Russian regions? The budget for the next year reads that 85% of financing from the fund will be assigned for two subjects of the Federation: Tatarstan and Bashkiria. It is strange, but only 15% of financing is appropriated for the remaining 87 Federation subjects. I think that if the 85% of the fund’s finance were appropriated for the Regional Development Fund and further assigned to the Kaliningrad region, other Federation subjects would treat this with understanding.

Instead, this 85% have provoked a really great fuss in the Duma. My opinion is that to achieve success in the struggle for Kaliningrad, we should first focus on the Lithuanian lobby in the Russian government structures; we should struggle against it. The matter of the fact is that the Lithuanian lobby is one of the strongest in Russia. Their interests are lobbied on all governmental levels. It is strange, but sometimes Russian officials prefer Lithuania’s interests to those of Russia, which is harmful to Russia. Let’s remember the persistence connected with the ratification of an agreement with Lithuania. At least half a year ago, RF Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that an agreement should be immediately put forward for ratification; he said he personally would do his best to ratify the agreement. And how do you think this is connected with the interests of Russia? Do you mean that Russia’s interests are ignored at that? It is sometimes said that the “Attitude of Lithuania toward Russia and the Russian-speaking population in the country is particular.” To tell the truth, the attitude of Lithuania is as anti-Russian as the positions of Latvia and Estonia.

In fact, the assimilation of 20% non-Lithuanian population is easier in Lithuania; there is no problem with citizenship, as it is believed that there is no need to assimilate the 20%. It poses a problem for Latvia and Estonia where the Russian-speaking population is about 40%. For this very reason, Russians can’t receive citizenship there. However, Moscow mustn’t lobby interests of other countries and infringe upon its own national interests. I think we should take considerable measures in this respect.

I am among the group of deputies who have submitted a document to the State Duma for a legal estimation of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the secret protocols. The Russian Foreign Ministry required that the discussion of the problem is to be deferred until November 15. I hope the Duma will have enough political will to vote for the document on November 15.

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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