Lithuania’s foreign policy is aimed at the promotion of good-neighbour relations with Russia and the reinforcement of regional security, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus said at a press conference after US President George W Bush’s visit to Vilnius. Lithuania is to become a full-fledged NATO member in the early spring of 2004.
Interfax quoted Adamkus as saying he and Bush discussed Russia’s attitude towards the enlargement of NATO and further good-neighbour relations between Russia and the Baltic countries. Bush briefed the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia on changes in Russia’s attitude to NATO enlargement, he said. Moscow calmly accepted this process, he added.
On the same note, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valionis expressed confidence that the country’s planned entry to NATO would “make (Lithuania’s) favourable relations with Russia even better.”
Valionis said Russia was one of the subjects discussed by Bush and Adamkus.
“The US president stressed his good relationship with the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, and good relations between the US and Russia and between NATO and Russia, something that would undoubtedly create a qualitatively new kind of security both in Europe as a whole and in Lithuania,” the minister said.
Asked about prospects for Lithuanian-Russian relations in light of Lithuania’s forthcoming entry to NATO, Valionis said: “I’m sure that Lithuania, having achieved a qualitatively new level of security, will be able to become even more open for cooperation with Russia.” “Lithuania’s entry to NATO changes the situation, but solely for the better,” he added.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Linas Linkevicius also said the Baltic country’s accession to NATO would not hinder its mutual cooperation with Russia, including in the sphere of defence. “I have no doubts that even after Lithuania enters NATO, the positive tendencies towards the development of cooperation, mutual understanding and confidence between the defence structures of Lithuania and Russia, which emerged in the past few years, will continue,” Linkevicius said.
Bush has reaffirmed that the three Baltic countries’ membership in NATO would boost their security. NATO is prepared to defend its members, Bush told a crowd that gathered on a square in Vilnius on November 23. Those who would want to make Lithuania their enemy will become the enemy of the United States, he said. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia will never again have to fight aggression single-handedly, he added.
Adamkus said in turn that integration into Europe and the Euro-Atlantic family is the shortest path to Lithuania’s security and prosperity.
The United States has actively backed Lithuania “through thick and thin,” and remained a reliable ally that never recognised the occupation of Lithuania, he said.
Earlier, Adamkus said that after a decade of preparations for accession to NATO, Lithuania has grown stronger and is a mature democratic state. He said his country has become an example of peaceful life, accord and tolerance in Central and Eastern Europe, and has assumed the role of joining the future NATO members into the so-called Vilnius Ten. “Whole generations have tried to join Lithuania to a safe Europe, and independence was restored for this purpose 12 years ago,” Adamkus told a briefing.
Meanwhile, Valionis said Bush, in talking to Adamkus, hailed Lithuanian efforts to solve the problem of the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad. Bush thanked Adamkus for his constructive position on the Kaliningrad transit issue and asked the Lithuanian leadership to wrap up technical consultations in the same vein. Lithuanian parliament speaker Arturas Paulauskas and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas also met with Bush. Adamkus decorated Bush with the Grand Cross of Vitulkas the Great for his role in the expansion of bilateral relations and support for Lithuania’s integration into NATO.