Leading up to every parliamentary election, political parties make promises to the electorate; that what it is they intend to achieve when they come to power. But how many of these pledges were actually fulfilled on defence and foreign policy? Leading analysts have their say.
Lithuanian army
© KAM

Linas Kojala, an analyst for the Eastern Europe Studies Centre (EESC) looked at commitments relating to foreign policy and on the promises made by the coalition government parties – Social Democrats, Labour party, Order and Justice Party in 2012.

The social democrats have fulfilled a part of their pledges according to Kojala, but those of the Labour party and the Order and Justice party were abstract to the point where discussing whether they were fulfilled or not is extremely difficult.

Social Democrats: a good reaction to the Ukraine crisis, but no reset of relations with Russia

In its 2012 electoral programme the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP) committed to continue the professionalization and modernisation of the Lithuanian armed forces, to improve their combat readiness and service conditions. Also among the promises made was a transformation of the army based on NATO experience.

The LSDP also pledged to strengthen the integration of Lithuania into NATO, and to actively participate in the transatlantic cooperation process.

“We will strengthen the civil patriotic education, involving public organisations. We will encourage voluntary citizen participation in the defence of the state. We will support the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union. We will constantly perform state threat evaluations and depending on the threats, we will effectively adjust the direction and action plans of national security and defence,” the LSDP announced in the “National security and state defence” chapter of its programme.

In the “European Union and foreign policy” chapter, the Social Democrats promised suitable preparation for and smooth chairing of the EU and committed to developing positive connections with foreign states, especially focusing on relations with Poland, Germany and the Scandinavian states, and to also actively implement a Baltic Sea strategy.

The Social Democrats also asserted they intended to apply a “reset” strategy for Lithuanian relations with Russia, prioritising constructive dialogue. The party promised it would play an active role in the European Neighbourhood Policy.

In his evaluation of the Social Democrat defence and foreign policy commitments Kojala noted that the national security and state defence situation as well as the capacity to implement program goals was radically changed by events in Ukraine which demanded rapid and unequivocal decisions.

“The fact that the defence budget was raised from 0.8% to 1.5% of the GDP, with the agreement of all parties, was a clear step forward aiming to reach the 2% demanded by NATO,” said Kojala.

The analyst claimed that the promises to professionalize and modernise the Lithuanian army, while logical before the election, in the context of the events in Ukraine became insufficient.

“It became obvious that just the professional military mentioned in the programme is insufficient. Thus the logical decision to return the draft was made. That said, the role of the Rifleman’s Union could be clarified,” said Kojala.

Kojala said signs of a breakthrough in Lithuanian-Polish relations as promised by the Social Democrats were difficult to find. The Lithuanian side tried to find points of contact, but to no result.

“Meanwhile relations with Germany appear to have strengthened. But this was in a large part not due to the actions of the coalition government, but the excellent relationship between President Dalia Grybauskaitė and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“Nevertheless it is important to note that all Lithuanian foreign policy institutions worked in unison, which in the context of a security crisis as well as Lithuanian chairmanship of the EU and participation in the United Nations Security Council was very significant,” said Kojala.

The analyst agrees with the necessity for implementation of the Baltic Sea Strategy, but noted that this promise is hard to evaluate as the programme did not state any clear criteria that could be linked to the completion of specific goals.

Kojala views both the promise of a reset in relations with Russia and its implementation negatively.

“The programme itself contained yet another attempt to improve relations with Russia, even using the term “reset,” despite this policy of US President Barack Obama toward the Kremlin being viewed controversially already during the Seimas election. Such programme points did not live up to expectations nor could they because the Lithuanian position is absolutely not a variable that can have an impact on the overall situation,” said the analyst.

Nevertheless according to Kojala at least the pledge to effectively adjust the direction and actions plans of national security and defence strategy was fulfilled.

“The reaction to changing geopolitical circumstances was adequate. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Social Democrats performed a significant role in seeking consensus within the EU regarding the question of sanctions and in supporting Ukraine.”

“Lithuanian decision makers showed they had a clear position and priorities,” said L. Kojala.

Labour party: Many promises, but hard to evaluate their fulfilment

The Labour party threw a whole bouquet of promises at the electorate. The party programme section for foreign policy is twice the size of that of the Social Democrats or the Order and Justice Party.

The party promised to maintain a consistent foreign policy, ensuring good relations with all countries in the world, based on the principles of democracy, equal partnership, mutual help and benefit. The party stated it aimed to ensure the security of Lithuania through participation in international organisations, particularly NATO and the EU.

Among other pledges made by the party – effective participation in dealing with common foreign policy, European security, defence strategy goals, the expansion of economic cooperation, ensuring active participation in EU institutions by representatives of Lithuania, continuous analysis of EU, Eurasian and world economic growth, development of human rights policy and its implementation.

The Labour party also promised to develop closer ties with Baltic Sea and Northern region states, EU state neighbours, to participate in EU-Russian partnership dialogue, to support Lithuanian exports, Lithuanian business investments abroad, and to support the expansion of international ties.

The party also stated it would use experience in international organisations and foundations to overcome the negative facets of globalization and to actively participate in the fight against international corruption, human trafficking and the drug trade.

Among the party’s promises was increasing the competence of the diplomatic core, the improvement of international relations judicial base, strengthening of ties with expatriate Lithuanian communities and organisations, the development of Lithuanian defence capacities and the suitable fulfilment of international obligations.

Kojala said that just the first sentence in the programme – “We will pursue a consistent foreign policy, ensuring good relations with all states in the world,” sounds utopian. A similar approach is present in other sections thus it is difficult to evaluate the completion of pledges.

“Many of the goals set were abstract. It is hard to assess what exactly this party did to fulfil them,” said Kojala.

The analyst noted that just as with the Social Democrats, the Labour party focused on cooperation with Russia while according to him in 2012 and during their tenure, relations with NATO and EU partners were far more important.

“An assessment of other aspects such as combating the negative impacts of globalisation is not possible because there is no explanation of just what the negative consequences are, or even talk of a strategy of how to change them,” said Kojala.

“Order and Justice”: a programme so abstract, it could be used this year with no changes

The “Order and Justice” party promised to base all of Lithuanian foreign policy on a basic principle of the benefit to the Lithuanian people and to seek positive and pragmatic relations with all neighbours.

“We will review and clearly select strategic partners in the EU, aiming to complete our goals. Far more actively involve the EU in seeking energy independence and economic integrity for Lithuania, for this more effectively harnessing state diplomatic potential,” stated the electoral programme of “Order and Justice.”

The programme also promises to fix and reconstruct the best possible relations with Poland as well as significantly intensifying relations with other Baltic states.

“An unspecified or sometimes non-existent image will be replaced with the image of a friendly state while remaining reliable to our partners, supporting all states that advocate human rights and respecting the life of every single human being as well as free choice,” said its 2012 Seimas electoral programme.

Kojala said just as with the Labour party, the “Order and Justice” party programme suffers from how utopian it is.

“While there is an attention-grabbing goal to fundamentally reform a ‘disoriented by interest’ foreign policy, there are no guidelines as to what specific aims there will be. ‘The good of the Lithuanian people’ is a principle that can be applied to the programme of any other party as such statements have no inherent or clear meaning,” said Kojala.

The analyst drew attention to the programme’s section on Poland not mentioning any means of improving bilateral relations even though according to him bilateral relations problems are well known for a long time and clearly outlined. Thus, Kojala said it is impossible to truly evaluate the completion of such pledges.

“An analogous programme can be presented even now because even with a drastically changed geopolitical situation, as well as complex processes developing in the European Union such a level of abstraction allows it to transcend any means of solving issues. It is clear that foreign and security policy were never at the top of their priority list,” said Kojala.

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