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Published: 6 august 2013 11:30

Rimvydas Valatka: Lithuanian diplomacy face-toface with YouTube

It never rains but it pours. It wasn't enough that police officers immobilized and carried away Petras Gražulis, that loud advocate of family values, like they were taught at the police academy to handle hooligans; the great champion of tilting at gay windmills got also dumped by his wife. In front of the entire nation. During the height of his fight for morality. And to add insult to injury, the reason for divorce is his failure to take proper care of his family.

But that was not the last of the blows to our suffering nation.

While President Grybauskaitė was forced to hold an umbrella over the head of Israeli President Shimon Peres, very undiplomatic conversations of Lithuania's two diplomats were playing on YouTube. About the valiant prime minister, the even more valiant president, and two wacky ambassadors from Armenia and Azerbaijan who make alternating rounds to our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. To complain. One keeps accusing Lithuania of being pro-Armenian, while the other says it is pro-Azeri.

Ambassador Juška confessed to his colleague that he himself was leaning in favour of the Armenians because, he aptly noted, they were Christians, just like us. Lithuania's official position, though, is pro-Azeri, therefore pro-Muslim. It might be because Azerbaijan's government pays our MPs' - and their mistresses' - trips to Baku, so these comments will not do any good to the ambassador with some good sense.

The leaked conversation has revealed that, over the last couple of decades, Lithuania has trained a generation of diplomats with faculties for critical thought as well as good sense of humour.

Jokes about Butkevičius's trip to Saint Petersburg – the prime minister is advised to bring some snuff to a meeting with Russia's Medvedev – and about Grybauskaitė's journeys with low-fare airlines are worthy of a place in the canon of political humour. Probably posthumously, as they say.

The leaked conversation between the two diplomats has also revealed that our diplomacy chief is at a complete loss. Linkevičius reacted as if YouTube, Facebook, and mobile phone tapping had been invented the day after his party came to power.

One could simply look through our diplomats' Facebook profiles for posts made late at night, after hospitable embassy receptions. The entire diplomatic corpse could be fired in one stroke of the minister's pen.

The minister was so unsettled by Žurauskas's jokes about asking Oriental businessmen to buy President Grybauskaitė a jet for official visits that he accidentally pushed a wrong 'speed react' button. He declared in front of the nation and the world that the YouTube videos were an “information provocation.”

The nation, well familiar with operations of our special services or the police to provoke officials into giving a bribe, simply shrugged. A provocation, many thought, is when someone puts something for you to take that you shouldn't – but you do and get caught. What provocation is it when two diplomats are merely having a chat about their superiors?

The conversations could turn out to be a provocation only if, say, Žurauskas (our Ambassador in Azerbaijan) were cunningly trying to lure Juška (Ambassador to Hungary) into immoral and subversive speculations about the president's flights or the prime minister's snuff. Or, vice versa, Juška were trying to frame Žurauskas.

Perhaps the special investigation launched by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will reveal all truth? It might turn out that the Special Investigations Service had a hand in the affair?

It is more likely that the foreign minister simply misused the word “provocation.” He should also consult a dictionary for a difference between “provocations” and “operations” – the latter often conducted against our diplomats by the well-established international ring of Russian spies.

This might come in handy in the future. Over the remaining three years of his term as prime minister, Linkevičius might need to turn on his laptop again in order to listen to random reflections of his ambassadors.

What if this was not the last leak of recorded chats by our ambassadors? Professor Raimundas Lopata says: if the minister sacks Žurauskas and Juška, it might pose a threat to our national security. Lithuania might run out of qualified diplomats.

Bad? Well, it can always get worse. What if recorded conversations are not leaked but instead sent to ambassadors themselves? “Listen, guys, this and that, we can upload it on YouTube and you'll end up like Žurauskas and Juška; or we can have a deal. A tit for tat for mother Russia...”

Come to think of it, no need for recordings! One could simply look through our diplomats' Facebook profiles for posts made late at night, after hospitable embassy receptions. The entire diplomatic corpse could be fired in one stroke of the minister's pen.

The world where everyone listens to everyone else and everyone writes on everything has different rules. Relax, guys. There's nothing one can do about it. Let's chat instead. What was that thing about Grybauskaitė's umbrella?

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