Published: 8 march 2012 09:46
The Baltic Times

Vladimir Putin’s possible maneuvers toward the Baltics

The victory of Vladimir Putin in the elections for president of Russia somehow did not surprise Lithuania. Anyway, it provoked some guessing regarding the future Kremlin’s foreign policy.
Vladimiras Putinas
„Reuters“/„Scanpix“ nuotr. / Vladimiras Putinas

Mečys Laurinkus, former head of Lithuania’s State Security Department, on the eve of the elections, in his regular column in Saturday’s issue of the daily Lietuvos Rytas, raised an interesting theory regarding the elections in politically exotic Russia.

According to Laurinkus, Putin, able to choose for himself a bunch of pseudo-rivals in these elections, is also testing Russian public opinion on variations of future Russian foreign politics. Laurinkus urged to watch the results of ‘ultra-imperialist’ Vladimir Zhirinovsky and ‘liberal’ oligarch Mikhail Prokhorov.

Gretos Skaraitienės nuotr./Mečys Laurinkus
Gretos Skaraitienės nuotr./Mečys Laurinkus

“Zhirinovsky, when, during TV debates, was asked by the TV show host who are the main enemies of Russia, named NATO, the EU and China, while the friends [of Russia] are Slavic states and Iran,” Laurinkus wrote, adding that Prokhorov promoted the idea of future close cooperation between Russia and Western Europe, while the USA, according to Prokhorov, in the interpretation of Laurinkus, should be kept away from the European continent. According to Laurinkus, Putin will choose the middle way between these two views, but he will pay some attention to the number of votes given to Zhirinovsky and Prokhorov.

The Russian elections can hardly be described as free and fair, according to Lithuanian observers, except the controversial leader of the Labor Party, Viktor Uspaskich. “The presidential elections in Russia. Well, sort of...” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter on March 4. Regardless, the candidates provoking the interest of Laurinkus received the following results: Zhirinovsky got 6 percent of the votes while Prokhorov officially got 8 percent. In Moscow, where Putin got less than 50 percent, Prokhorov got 20 percent while Zhirinovsky received 6 percent. However, it is worth bearing in mind that anti-Western Gennady Zyuganov came in second (except in Moscow city, where Prokhorov was second) after Putin.

Laurinkus also pointed out the growing aggressiveness of the behavior of Russian agents in the Baltics, pointing to the outburst of Russian minority-related referendum mania in Latvia. Putin, during his election campaign, launched a verbal attack on the citizenship issue against Latvia and Estonia, which have a big percentage of their population without citizenship.

Although Lithuania has no citizenship problems and only 13,500 Russian citizens on its territory, the attempts by agents of Russia to destabilize the situation are obvious, according to Laurinkus.

“When the current government started to speak louder about the energy sector’s independence, relations with Poland, which can play an important role in this process, worsened in a year. That will depend on the agents’ work,” Laurinkus wrote.

One of the biggest ever challenges for Lithuania will probably be the coming demonstration organized by Valdemar Tomasevski, leader of the Polish-Russian election bloc, bearing his name (the bloc of Russian Alliance and the Tomasevski-led Lithuania’s Polish Electoral Action). That demonstration via central Vilnius is scheduled for the middle of March. Officially, the demonstration will be a protest against the recent minor educational reform introducing a bit more of the Lithuanian language in Lithuanian state-run Slavic minority schools.

According to a survey conducted 9-21 February, which was carried out by the social research company Vilmorus and published by the daily Lietuvos Rytas on 25 February, Tomasevski is the most unpopular politician in Lithuania – 3.4 percent of Lithuania’s population evaluates him positively, 62.7 percent negatively and 33.9 percent have no clear opinion about him. However, in the middle of March, he will get huge external support.

According to the daily Lietuvos Rytas, on 1 March , during the demonstration of Polish far right nationalist radicals in Warsaw, the leadership of these radicals urged their followers (a big part of them are the notorious violent Polish football hooligans) to take part in a demonstration in Vilnius. Buses hired by these radicals will travel from Warsaw to Vilnius in the morning of 17 March. Many of the demonstrations in Warsaw by these radicals end up in violence.

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