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Published: 14 october 2013 18:07

Rimvydas Valatka: Chevron is out, Lithuania – Russia 0:4

Rimvydas Valatka
Luko Balandžio nuotr. / Rimvydas Valatka

Chevron is out. Protectors of crapper heritage celebrate as if Lithuania had scored a goal that would qualify it for the World Cup. In fact, it was an own goal. After that, Lithuania will only play in the Pub League. The goal was not a result of pressure from the opposing team, a mistake of the defence, or a bad goalkeeper. The Government of Algirdas Butkevičius scored an own goal intentionally. In short, it fixed the game to suit Gazprom. After recent events at the Russian customs and a broadcast of the First Baltic Channel, the overall score is 4:0, Russia's winning.

The prime minister had promised a contract with Chevron by 15 March. Then he postponed it to April. Then pushed the date again. And along with deadlines, he started changing legislation of shale gas exploration. So that Chevron got angry and left of its own accord – if we were to believe the account of the prime minister's adviser.

More than six months have passed. The prime minister has failed to grasp that it is in Lithuania's interest to know whether it has any shale gas or not, not Chevron's.

Investors from around the globe have been given a clear message that it's a bad idea to do business with Lithuania.

In general, the last time Lithuania looked so bad was perhaps only in spring 2004, when the then President Rolandas Paksas invited (his campaign sponsor) Yuri Borisov to be his adviser. Back then, the national embarrassment was soon washed away with an impeachment.

Investors from around the globe have been given a clear message that it's a bad idea to do business with Lithuania.

Consider this: The president, who is constitutionally charged with conducting the country's foreign policy and goes to Brussels even when it would be wiser to send the prime minister instead, washes her hands off the 0.5-billion-litas issue of Lithuanian dairy exports and tells the prime minister he should handle relations with Russia. The latter equally arrogantly retorts that foreign policy is not his province but the president's.

What have we got? The silkiest (and funniest) of the prime minister's advisers, Antanas Vinkus, is sent to Russia to negotiate. Adviser on healthcare. Oh dear. Can the prime minister hear the Kremlin roaring with laughter?

If no one feels any embarrassment about the state, why do we need the president at all, the luxurious edifice on Daukanto Square, why do we need the prime minister? Let's hang a dummy in their place – both cheap and more entertaining.

Basketball leaders must have been the only ones who managed to outdo the president and the prime minister last week. Having abdicated en masse for no apparent reason just weeks ago, they equally inexplicably returned, en masse. Instead of celebrating our men's silver victory in EuroBasket, we were forced to watch a pathetic intermezzo of gullivers.

Bet let's return to foreign affairs. What can Lithuania change in its relations with Russia? Can it do anything at all?

Russia has been, is, and will be Lithuania's neighbour. The good thing about it is that, for almost a quarter of the century, we have been near Russia, not within. But we must have a Russian policy. Both for today and for ten years ahead. And our wish – if not the explicit goal – should be to see Russia become a democratic pro-Western state, something that would be to the advantage of Russia, the West, and the entire world.

That is not to say, however, that we should make concessions to today's Russia, whose brightest minds know very well that economic wars are detrimental to their country but choose to wage them nonetheless. It is therefore not the time to think about our Russian policy when Lithuanian trucks are turning back with sour milk. As the shouting match between the president and the prime minister shows, we do not have a Russian policy.

Even if we did, it would make little difference in the dairy boycott affair. Or the humiliating checks to which our trucks were subjected at the Russian border. Russia cannot be understood by reason. Doing business with Russia since 1991 is tantamount to supping with the devil. You can get very lucky, there are some who made fortunes by trading with Russia, but even more lost their businesses and souls.

Russia has been, is, and will be Lithuania's neighbour. The good thing about it is that, for almost a quarter of the century, we have been near Russia, not within.

One might say that the same applies to propaganda on the First Baltic Channel. What can you do about Russia openly mocking at the memory of 13 January 1991, victims? At most, pray for the lost souls of those propagandists who know what they are doing?

But Lithuania – or parliament, to be more precise – can do something about it. Unfortunately, our Seimas, instead of using the powers it has, did the exact opposite – it adopted legislation that has Lithuania almost force-feeding the First Baltic and other Russian channels like REN TV.

Several years ago, the Lithuanian parliament, as always pursuing the lofty goal of sobering up the nation, banned advertisment of beers and wines on Lithuanian channels before 11 PM. And what have we got as a result? Commercials of Lithuanian sparkling wine, beer, and vodka are aired on the First Baltic, REN TV, and other Kremlin's channels intended for the Lithuanian public.

Advertising budgets of Alita, Stumbras, Švyturio-Utenos Alus and other Lithuanian producers were taken away from our own media and given to the First Baltic on a silver platter! Alcohol commercials did not disappear, but Lithuanian producers' money is and will continue to be used by Russia fund heinous propaganda campaigns directed against Lithuania.

But has a single MP who voted for the law said he or she is sorry? To rephrase a well-known saying, he who does not feed his own media, feeds a foreign one.

Therefore here again, former parliamentary majorities scored into their own goal. Just like in the case of Chevron, when the choice was made not by the prime minister, the president, or the Seimas, but by a provincial leader and his shadow puppets with Gazprom certificates.

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