Unlike in the 2009 presidential elections, the current President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, failed to score a victory in the first round. She won almost 47 percent of the votes, while the Social Democrat candidate Zigmantas Balcytis came second with almost 14 percent. Experts predicted before the elections that, in spite of a high level of support, the current president would find it difficult to win in the first round. Besides, they did not rule out surprises in the runoff. Experts believe that Grybauskaite’s rating has grown owing to a tough attitude to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The Day requested Marius LAURINAVICIUS, senior analyst at the Vilnius-based Center for East European Studies, to comment on the election results and explain Vilnius’s vision of the situation in Ukraine and the role of Russia in this crisis.
“This was not a true election, nor was there a true election campaign. The situation in Lithuania was very strange: nobody was really vying for the office of president and Dalia Grybauskaite herself did not wage an election campaign at all. She was just doing her duty as president of Lithuania. It was crystal clear that she would win these elections, and her rivals did not even try to win. They had other goals to pursue. For example, the Social Democrat candidate came off second best. His main goal is to win the European Parliament elections that are to be held in two weeks’ time. This will create an odd situation, when he will be running for a European Parliament seat and the presidency of Lithuania on the same day.”
Why did Grybauskaite not wage an election campaign? Did she count on her popularity?
“I think so. This may be a mistake. She wanted to win in the first round but failed to do so. I am a bit surprised that she did not win. But what struck me most of all is that Valdemar Tomasevski, a Polish party candidate who managed to rally together not only the Polish, but also the Russian minority, garnered almost 9 percent of the votes. This party [Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. – Ed.] always tries to whip up tension, alleging that their rights are being infringed. I agree that there are, of course, some problems. Lithuania does not allow them to put up bilingual signboards in cities and villages. It is not allowed to write their names in Polish in passports. I think this can be settled. They are manipulating with these minor things to whip up tension and use this for their political purposes. They have thus raised their popularity. In the previous elections, they surmounted the 5-percent barrier and managed to get into parliament. Now they have gained 9 percent. This means they manage to rally together not only the Polish, but also the Russian minorities which account for 5 and 4 percent, respectively.”
Are the citizens of Lithuania disappointed with EU and NATO membership?
“No. The Lithuanians are not disappointed at all with Europe and NATO. We recently marked the 10th anniversary of joining the EU. It is clear to all that if Lithuania were not an EU member, it would be a totally different country in terms of socioeconomic development. It is also clear in the light of Ukrainian events that, but for EU and NATO membership, we would have met the same fate as Ukraine – even earlier than Ukraine. As analysts, we are also saying that many EU countries are just unaware of what is going on in Ukraine – it is a danger to Europe as a whole, not only to Ukraine or some other neighboring countries, such as Moldova. We are criticizing this, but this does not mean that we are disappointed with the European Union. We only know that it is very difficult to make decisions in the EU. Obviously, it is also a problem that most countries do not understand that Russia poses a real threat.”
And what is to be done to make this clear to the Frenchmen and Germans, many of whom “understand Putin”?
“We must just explain things to, speak and debate with them. Some of those people can understand things. But it is very difficult to speak to them because they think in logical categories. Whenever you debate with them in these categories, they say: look, what kind of threat can Russia pose to Europe and NATO? Just compare the military might of NATO and Russia – it is incomparable. Or compare the economic might of the EU and Russia – it is also incomparable. They are just not trying to think about those who cooked up all this campaign in Ukraine. Indeed, how can we compare the military and economic power of NATO and the EU with that of Russia? But this has no decisive effect on the events in Ukraine. The Russians have invented a new form of war. They do not even need to use a regular army in Ukraine, but still they are fighting there – so far very successfully to our regret.”
Where do you think is the “red line” for Putin? What can stop him in this new war against Ukraine?
“Now the most interesting thing is whether Putin will keep the promise he gave to the Europeans or Americans. In particular, he suggested postponing the referendum and said he welcomed holding the presidential elections in Ukraine. This fits in with the plan of American and European, including German, leaders to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. Putin has personally subscribed to this plan. I wonder what he will do next. In my view, there are several scenarios.
“The first scenario. Putin does not even think to keep his promises. He has again cheated the West, as he used to do repeatedly.
“The second scenario. Putin seems to agree to the abovementioned plan. He is not moving in troops, supports the holding of elections in Ukraine, and does not support the separatists. On the other hand, the West agrees that there must be federalization, bilingualism, and Constitutional provision for neutrality. Putin thus achieves his goals. For these goals are laid down in the document that was made public in mid-March after a meeting between Lavrov and Kerry in London.
“The third scenario. The forces that brewed all this may just ignore Putin. This referendum was held because they perhaps received no instructions from their immediate superiors. I mean the saboteurs who are making all the trouble there. But for these saboteurs, I think Ukraine would successfully overcome this crisis. The problem is there are several hundred real saboteurs in your country, who are well trained not only militarily, but also semi-politically – they know what to do, how to manage the situation, how to encourage the populace to protest against Kyiv. And what was done in Odesa is also part of a plan to provoke a civil war.
“These well-trained people are trying to reach a lot of goals at the same time. It is sometimes difficult to say which goal is the main one. So far, they have been and perhaps will be trying to thwart the elections. At the same time, they are provoking a civil war. The third goal is to destroy Ukraine as a state by means of the current socioeconomic, not military, crisis and sow chaos throughout the country – Ukraine will cease to function as a state and be unable, due to this chaos, to rebuild its governmental institutions.”