This is a story told in anecdotes and figures of Lithuania’s own struggles with holding onto its population. It is worth the time.
Getting completely out from Russia’s deeply unpleasant embrace should be Lithuania’s first, second, and third foreign policy and economic priorities.
Lithuania summoned the Russian ambassador for a dressing-down this week, an act that will no doubt cause Putin to quake in terror the very instant it is backed by a military larger than Russia’s.
Lithuania has come far since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite Moscow’s best efforts to preserve old ties, holding the EU presidency will firmly weld Vilnius to the West.
In a little-noticed news item last week, Lithuania announced that it will re-open talks with its fellow Baltic states and Hitachi to open a nuclear plant outside of Visaginas.
Europe is tired of the Gazprom monopoly and isn’t going to take it any more. At least, that appears to be the message from Lithuania, which will take over the European Union’s rotating presidency in July.
Vilnius inevitably will be drawn further into the debate over how best to extricate troubled European states from their economic difficulties. Lithuania is particularly interested in stabilizing the eurozone since Vilnius hopes to enter the monetary union in 2015.
With Europe in recession, the East will face continued tough times. However, even today some countries and some companies are doing well. With the right policies, the region can prosper in spite of the West’s difficulties.
The increasing cooperation between Poland, Lithuania, and wider Eastern Europe on energy could be one reason why Moscow has been seen recently as trying to drive a wedge between the Baltic neighbors.
The Eurozone continues to go from bad to worse. Greece may be on its way out. Spain wants a bank bail-out. Buried amongst this depressing cascade of impending catastrophe is some good news. The Baltic States have demonstrated the art of economic reform.