Use this url to cite publication: https://cris.mruni.eu/cris/handle/007/17769
Lietuvos ir Rusijos sutartis dėl tarpvalstybinių santykių pagrindų : mokslo studija
Type of publication
Mokslo studija / Study (K1b)
Stankevičius, Česlovas Vytautas
Lietuvos ir Rusijos sutartis dėl tarpvalstybinių santykių pagrindų : mokslo studija
The treaty on the foundations of interstate relations between Lithuania and Russia
Vilnius : Mykolo Romerio universitetas
Derybų delegacijos narių trumpi atsiminimai p. 184-190. Priedai p. 191-281.
The process of negotiations between the Republic of Lithuania and the Russian Federation, then the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), on the treaty on the Foundations of Interstate Relations lasted for almost 11 months. In 1990, the Republic of Lithuania, which de iure became a fully independent state under the Act of 11 March, sought to restore the former state relations between the two independent states that existed before the occupation and annexation of Lithuania by the USSR in 1940. But the USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev wanted to preserve the USSR empire and annexed Lithuania as a part of it. In the initial stage of “negotiations on negotiations” the USSR made a precondition that the negotiations should be conducted only on the status of Lithuania’s statehood within the Soviet Union. The adoption of the Declaration on the State Sovereignty of the RSFSR on 12 June 1990 which opened up a real opportunity for Lithuania to regulate state relations directly with the Russian Federation could be considered the breakthrough of the process. On 27 July 1990 the leaders of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Lithuania, Boris Yeltsin and Vytautas Landsbergis, agreed to start bilateral negotiations on the conclusion of a treaty on political-legal relations between the two countries in accordance with the principles and norms of international law without imposing any preconditions on each other. At the same time, the Russian Federation agreed on bilateral negotiations with the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Estonia. The strong efforts of the authorised Lithuanian negotiating commission at the beginning of the negotiations were needed in order to reach an agreement with the commission authorised by the Russian Federation on reflecting political and legal principles relevant to Lithuania in the treaty on relations between Lithuania and Russia. With the aim of establishing a democratic Russian state, which would be independent from the USSR, the Russian Federation strictly separated its identity from the RSFSR founded as a result of the Bolshevik coup d’état in 1917, which became a part of the Soviet Union in 1922. Thereby the Russian Federation wanted to distance itself from the responsibility for the criminal actions committed by the communist Soviet Union. Mr Yeltsin officially expressed political support to the independence of Lithuania and the other two Baltic States and to the nations defending this independence during the military aggression by the USSR against Lithuania on 13 January 1991. On 12–13 January Mr Yeltsin had already signed the treaties on interstate relations with the leaders of Estonia and Latvia. While negotiating with Lithuania, the Russian Federation sought such wording for the treaty with Lithuania that would be identical to that reached in the treaties signed with Latvia and Estonia. Such a position of Russian Federation complicated the negotiations between the independent Republic of Lithuania and the Russian Federation, as the treaties signed by Estonia and Latvia with Russia reflected their status during the period of transition to full state independence. Meanwhile, Lithuania sought that in the first article of the treaty Lithuania and Russia should recognise each other as subjects of international law according to their state status, as it is enshrined in the fundamental acts adopted by them. After a long discussion of the negotiators, the Lithuanian-Russian treaty clearly regulated the issues of the free choice of citizenship and favourable conditions for acquiring citizenship in their country of permanent residence for persons who moved from Russian territory to Lithuania and vice versa. Manifestly strong negotiating efforts of Lithuania and Russian Federation were needed until they agreed on the common approach in the treaty. Only after the USSR accepted to eliminate the consequences of the annexation of Lithuania in 1940, the conditions for mutual trust were created between the parties. As for the latter, the leaders of both countries, Mr Landsbergis and Mr Yeltsin, reached a final agreement only on 10 July 1991, after Mr Yeltsin had been elected as the President of the Russian Federation. The Treaty between the Republic of Lithuania and the Russian SFSR on the Foundations of Interstate Relations was signed by Mr Yeltsin and Mr Landsbergis on 29 July 1991, when only three weeks were left before the communist putsch in Moscow. Thus, there were unique circumstances in 1991 that allowed to conclude this Treaty, when both parties had the coinciding interests to support each other against the Soviet leadership. These circumstances predetermined the particular content of the Treaty on the Foundations of Interstate Relations: neither Latvia or Estonia, nor any former Soviet republic has achieved the treaty with Russia, in which the latter recognised the illegality of the 1940 Soviet aggression (including the annexation of Lithuania) as well as the continuity of the Republic of Lithuania and its identity with the State of Lithuania established by the Act of Independence of 16 February 1918. Therefore, the provision of the preamble of the Treaty, which mentions the illegality of the 1940 Soviet annexation, and Article 1 of the Treaty, according to which the Republic of Lithuania has been recognised under its legal status as defined by the acts on restoration of independence of 11 March 1990, are identified as the fundamental provisions of the Treaty. They also mean that, under the Treaty, Russia has acknowledged that Lithuania is not a state successor to the Soviet Union as well as the fact that Lithuania had been illegally occupied (had never been a legitimate part of the USSR) and liberated itself from the Soviet occupation (rather than seceded from the Soviet Union) in 1990. This precludes Russia from questioning the legality of the Lithuanian statehood and denying the 1940 Soviet aggression against Lithuania. That is why the current Russian leadership is tending to ignore the Treaty on the Foundations of Interstate Relations with Lithuania, although the Treaty remains in force and its fundamental Article 1 is of irrevocable nature. One more important provision of the Treaty deserves to be mentioned: under the Article 2 Russia has recognised Lithuania’s freedom to choose security guarantees, including collective defence systems. This provision has proved to be effective in responding to Russia’s attempts to preclude Lithuania’s membership in NATO. To sum it up, the 1991 Lithuanian-Russian Treaty on the Foundations of Interstate Relations can be assessed as a significant contribution to strengthening the rule of law in international relations. It still preserves huge potential for the development of friendly relations between Lithuania and Russia on the basis of international law, historical truth and justice, the sincere acknowledgment of sovereign equality and the mutual respect of the parties. It also contrasts with the present political reality – the failed democracy and the authoritarian rule in Russia as well as an official ideology of the latter, which is based on the glorification of the Soviet past. Analysis of Lithuanian-Russian relations since the proclamation of the Act of Restoration of Lithuania’s Independence until Lithuania’s accession to NATO and the European Union indicates that, although relations between Lithuania and Russia have not been too good, they have not always been bad either. Assessing this period, it can be noted that despite the rather different content of problems, the evolution of bilateral relations was quite dynamic and volatile. During that time, there were both ups and downs in the relationship, as well as mutual understanding and of almost Cold War type rhetoric. Such variability was partly due to Russia’s own indecision which line to take on Lithuania. The oncoming collapse of the Soviet Union motivated the new political elite of the Russian Federation strive for greater independence and sovereignty, to oppose totalitarianism and dictatorship, to establish democratic values in their country, and to have good relations with Lithuania as well. That is when the Treaty on the Foundations of Interstate Relations was relatively smoothly negotiated, signed and ratified. However, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Lithuanian-Russian relations began to develop on a different basis. Russia became the successor of all the obligations and rights of the Soviet Union. The Soviet army deployed in the Baltic States also transferred to its jurisdiction. Therefore, soon the further agenda of Lithuanian-Russian bilateral relations became much more diverse, but at the same time more complicated due to different or even conflicting interests. On other hand, at first sight it may seem that Lithuanian policy towards Russia also lacked consistency. It cannot be overlooked that during the period of 1992–2004, various Lithuanian political forces not only sharply discussed the tactical issues of Russian policy and practically “tested” two possible tactical approaches (confrontational and moderate) towards Russia. As could have been expected, each of these tactics had its own advantages and shortcomings, its benefits and cost. However, these tactical disagreements, no matter how sharp, were often illusory. In fact, Lithuania’s position towards Russia remained very focused and consistent. It would have been difficult for Lithuania to agree on anything with Russia if the Lithuanian political elite had not known exactly what it was aiming for, if it had not been able to overcome internal contradictions and maintain a common vector of relations with Russia. In 2004 two significant foreign and security policy goals were achieved when Lithuania became a full member of NATO and EU, and the hopes were raised about the possibility to have improved and more pragmatic relations with Russia. The further analysis of the years till now in the book is divided into three periods: 1) 2004–2008 when the hope about improved relations quickly disappeared and many bilateral issues and quarrels from previous years reappeared; 2) 2009–2013, which again started with short efforts to deescalate the relations, but again moved to the increased tensions and fights over history and Lithuanian efforts to seek energy independence; 3) 2014–2021, when Lithuania openly talks about the increased threat from Russia and concentrates all its efforts towards neutralizing this threat by rethinking military, energy and information security. Reflecting on the Lithuanian-Russian relations in 2021, there is no doubt that relations with Russia were and are the most problematic bilateral relations in Lithuanian foreign policy and any possibility to improve in the medium-term, or even in long-term perspective seem dubious. The structural asymmetry in the relations matters a lot: after the end of the cold war Russia is still looking for its place in global politics demanding to be respected by pushing and punishing its neighbours, demonstrating its perceived superiority in relations with Lithuania as well. While Lithuania is also prepared to constantly take a stance on the issues that irritate Russia and express opinion on the political processes in Russia. At the moment the differences and policies between two states are irreconcilable. The power imbalances, thus, force Lithuania not to concentrate on the improvement of the relations but on the other ways to increase its security and power.
Type of document
Lietuva / Lithuania (LT)
Lietuvių / Lithuanian (lt)
Atviroji prieiga / Open Access