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Is a meeting between the Lithuanian and American presidents news? No. I made such a conclusion after reading last week’s newspapers. Is a non-meeting between the Lithuanian and American presidents news? Yes, it is, and such news can be commented on for months, said Gintaras Aleknonis on the Public Broadcaster portal on 30 September. How can this be explained?

Apparently, in this case it is not enough to recall the classical rule of tabloid journalism: If a dog bites a man, it is not news, but if a man bites a dog – it is a sensation.

First, one should understand that meetings between the US and Lithuanian presidents are not events of international life, no matter how painful it may be to hear this, especially considering the fact that for a decade we were taught to think that we were shaping the big politics with every meeting of this kind. The polite conversation between Dalia Grybauskaite and Barack Obama over dinner in Prague that did not take place did not change the content and tone of the conversation six months later during the lunch in New York, Aleknonis thinks.

The Prague legend, which has been circulating in Lithuania’s public sphere since April, above all is a myth of domestic politics, and, if we examined more carefully how it was constructed, every one of us would be able to make our own conclusions.

On 26 March, the United States and Russia announced they reached an agreement on a new treaty limiting strategic weapons and the countries’ presidents would be signing the documents on 8 April in Prague. It was not easy to prepare for such a meeting in two weeks, and the American diplomats worked hard in order to give a deeper symbolic meaning to Obama’s trip. In other words, the president needed a “cultural agenda” in this visit, which encompassed the dinner with colleagues from Central and Eastern Europe. The first announcements in the media of the Czech Republic, which was the host country, were somewhat strange. It was said that only few state leaders had been invited; an alert person could have noticed a strange coincidence here – the countries with suspected CIA prisons were mentioned. Later, the guest list was expanded, even though it would be too daring to claim that only the “secret partners” were invited.

What was happening in Vilnius at the time, Aleknonis asks? I think that before a dinner invitation is mailed, they always use diplomatic channels to quietly find out about a possible reaction, possibilities. We can recall how much discretion surrounds appointments of ambassadors, for example. The fact that in Vilnius at that time the public learned about the discussions on who would be going to Prague was a clear blunder of the diplomatic service. Yet it is not clear whether it was a blunder of the Lithuanian diplomatic service or the US diplomatic service.

Even those who approve of Grybauskaite’s foreign policy (most importantly her shift towards sober assessment of the situation) keep mentioning her alleged biggest mistake – decision not to go to Prague to drink champagne. Many honestly cannot understand how one can reject such an honour.

Will such a talk end after the meeting in New York? Someone enjoys talking and talking about the worsening relations between the United States and Lithuania, while the big “sin” of Vilnius – the unfinished CIA prison ordeal – keeps flashing in the background.

Here, we should mention that those prisons, above all, is our domestic issue, and the Americans should not be blamed for this. Those who implemented this and created conditions, not those who proposed, are to blame. Those who were involved in the creation of the secret detention centres in Lithuania today are doing everything possible in order to make this solely an international problem. They are trying to prove that this harms Lithuania’s good name; therefore, it would best to keep silent. This way they are trying to avoid responsibility.

Let us recall that the impeachment of President Rolandas Paksas was Lithuania’s shame. We lived through it and even tried to turn it into an achievement by singing an old song in a new way – Lithuania was the last pagan country in Europe, but it was the first to impeach its president. We did not learn from the impeachment. Otherwise today we would not need to talk about the CIA prisons. These are merely different sides of the same coin.

In the Prague Castle, at the St Vitus Cathedral they are guarding St Vaclav’s crown. In public it is shown during special occasions, maybe once very ten or 20 years. There are not that many countries in Europe that protect the jewels of their crown so carefully. Once I carelessly joked with my Czech friend: “Do you know why you are hiding your crown so carefully? It actually belongs to Lithuania – in the 15th century you offered it to our Ruler Vytautas and now you are afraid that you will have to keep your promise.” Do you think the fellow-countryman of Hasek and Svejk was laughing, Aleknonis concludes his comment.