“We are proud that we managed to stabilize economic situation” – Lithuanian PM
In an exclusive interview, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius shared with RT's Sophie Shevardnadze some thoughts about the country's stance on Europe and their stable economy.
RT: A lot of time has passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, yet regulating relations between our two countries is still a huge challenge. What should be done to make the relationship at least stable?
Andreas Kubilius: Well, first of all I think that we have normal relations with Russia and we had very interesting and very open conversation with Prime Minister Putin and it was a conversation of two equal partners.
On some issues we agreed, on some issues we still have to discuss, but I am very happy that we even touched some very sensitive history issues.
So, I don't see any major problems in our relations with Russia.
RT: Talking about history, how are you planning to have Russia [compensate for] the damage inflicted by the Soviet occupation when Russia doesn't really acknowledge it?
AK: I think that there are very important, very positive changes in attitude of Russian leadership towards the history. First of all, condemnation by President Medvedev back at the end of October last year of atrocities of Stalin regime was very powerful.
RT: But still Lithuania is very skeptical and cautious about any decision that comes out of Russia. When you think about it - the interests our two countries don't really clash, either economically or politically, so why are you so cautious about Russia?
AK: Well, you know, we had sometimes very interesting and I should say sometimes very difficult history. If to look back into starting from, you know, end of 18th Century - we were suffering because of how Russia was behaving in this region and we are very sensitive of course, but we see a very good progress and very positive signals and I think the relations between Lithuania and Russia can be very practical, very pragmatic. And especially if we shall be able to win European basketball championship in Vilnius next year against Russia! So, everything will be OK.
RT: You're the main author of the strategy to contain Russia. What exactly is the strategy? What are Russia's actions exactly that need to be contained?
AK: Strategy which we published few years ago was very simple. We want to be a country which has a possibility to develop itself as Western country, European country. Some years ago we saw some attempts from Russian authorities to find a way to bring influence of Russia to the Baltic region sometimes in not very clear ways, and just now we see that perhaps Russia by itself is changing its position and I think there is some kind of wish from Russia itself to become a country which is closer to Europe than it was before, and it means that our strategy has some positive results.
RT: Now you - by you I mean Lithuania - support the idea of a United Europe. What's your take on Russia's proposal on the common European security system?
AK: We have good security system in Europe for time being. Russia's proposals will be discussed through so-called process and I don't see anything of a great value at the moment. It would be much better if Russia would avoid organizing big military exercises on the borders of Lithuania, in Belarus territory, and that will bring much more security in Europe than any kind of discussions on some other issues.
RT: You also mentioned that Lithuania's policy should be based on, I'm quoting you, “the larger American presence in Europe, the smaller the Russian.” Let's say, there's no Russian presence in Europe, do you think the Western European countries will be OK with the total American dominance in Europe?
AK: If Russia will come back to such behavior which Russia was showing for example during the 19th Century, when Russia was a very strong power, European strong power - that would be a difference. If Russia will not be able to overcome what we call post-imperial syndrome, post-Soviet imperial syndrome - that would be a difference. Russia can be a real European country, but it depends very much on Russia itself.
RT: Now the presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus were actually present at the 20th anniversary of Lithuania's independence. How did it happen? Can we draw any sort of conclusions out of that?
AK: We're a community of neighbors. We had very nice celebrations of 20th anniversary of Lithuanian independence. And we would be very happy to see both President Medvedev and some representative from neighborhood. 20 years ago when we were reaching for our independence, we were feeling very strong support from ordinary Russian people – big, massive demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg back in 1990s. That was really power of solidarity. It's a little bit pity that just now we don't see sometimes such kind of solidarity. I am sure that when Russian Federation will celebrate 20 years anniversary of their independence, the highest representatives of Lithuania will be present.
RT: Last year your country's GDP dropped by 15 per cent, which is actually one of the world's worst slumps in GDP, and Europe has refrained from helping you and really left you alone to deal with your problems, regardless of the fact that you had high hopes that Europe would help you. Why is that?
AK: Well, we show that the problems of national economy should be solved on national levels. And just now we see quite many experts were showing to Greece that they should follow Lithuanian example, not just looking for some kind of assistance from EU or from IMF. So, we are proud that we managed to stabilize economical [sic] situation.
RT: Riga and Vilnius are very much against the French government's decisions to sell a Mistral helicopter carrier to the Russian navy. Why is that?
AK: We have French fighters just now defending Baltic airspace. You can ask yourself again what they are defending and if Mistral will be based in Baltic Sea there will be very interesting scientific question: on what side we shall have French helicopters in the Baltic Sea, on Russian side; on another side we shall have French fighters.
RT: There was quite a brawl over CIA detention centers in your country and that has damaged your country's image. Are you going to do something about it?
AK: I don't think that it damaged our image, because maybe in opposite, we had a very strong parliamentary scrutiny of what had happened on that issue. And I think that we showed an example to some other countries how to investigate perhaps some mistakes made both by our governments and NATO community and US administration some years ago.
RT: Andrius Kubilius, Lithuanian Prime Minister. Thank you very much for your time.
AK: Thanks a lot.