Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic states and the largest and most populous of them. Like many countries in Eastern Europe, Lithuania was under the authority of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Lithuania was the first Baltic country to declare its independence from the USSR (in 1990) which provoked a military response that failed to reassert Moscow’s control over Lithuania. A referendum on independence passed in February 1991, and Lithuania’s independence was recognized by the Soviet Union on Sept. 6, 1991. The United States has been a strong supporter of Lithuania’s efforts to shed its Soviet past and develop a market-oriented economy. Officials in Washington also want Lithuania to participate in a controversial plan by American military planners to base anti-ballistic missiles in Eastern Europe, in an effort to shoot down missiles fired by “rogue” states. Russia has been vehemently opposed to this plan by the US to base interceptor missiles and other support infrastructure in Poland and the Czech Republic. In the event Poland gets cold feet over participating in the US missile shield, Washington would like to base the interceptors in Lithuania. This discovery prompted a strong reaction from Russia’s president at the G8 summit in 2008 while meeting with President George W. Bush. Lithuanian officials have been quiet about their country’s involvement in the missile plan.
Lay of the Land: This Baltic country is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east and south, Poland to the southwest, and Russia’s Kaliningrad Oblast and the Baltic Sea to the west. Lithuania’s landscape is flat, except for low hills in the western uplands and eastern highlands.
The pagan Liths are believed to have settled along the Nemen as early as 1500 BC. In the 13th century, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Teutonic Knights conquered the region now comprising Estonia, Latvia, and parts of Lithuania. To protect themselves against the knights, the Lithuanians formed a strong unified state.
Lithuanians were in America before the American Revolution, but the first significant wave of immigrants arrived in the late 1860’s. The abolition of serfdom in Lithuania in 1861, which was quickly followed by a famine, provided a strong impetus for emigration. Russian repression and a worsening economy drove more Lithuanians to American’s shores in the late 19th century.
Lithuania has supported the United States’ war on terror, contributing to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2005, Lithuania has led a Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Ghor province as part of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. It has also deployed troops to Iraq under Polish, then British, and Danish command. In addition, Lithuania has participated in the peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, which the US has supported.
In 2009 US imports from Lithuania totaled $590.1 million and were dominated by petroleum and furniture, household items and baskets. From 2003 to 2009, other petroleum products steadily rose from almost $200 million to more than $400 million. Furniture, household items and baskets is the second largest import at $49.4 million.
In 2009, a report by ABC News alleged the existence of a CIA torture facility in Lithuania, which prompted President Dalia Grybauskaitė to demand a formal investigation. The investigation confirmed the existence of two “black site” prisons in the country. The CIA, under President George W. Bush, used overseas detention facilities to bypass US law. The prisons were believed to be in operation from 2002 to 2005. One of the prisons could only house one detainee, while the other could hold and interrogate up to eight suspects at a time. The prison was constructed on the property of an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius which was bought by Elite, LLC, a now-defunct company registered in Delaware, Panama, and Washington, D.C. The prisons were operated without political consent; the prison arrangements were conducted between the CIA and the Lithuanian State Security Agency. Top officials within the Lithuanians government were not informed of the prisons. Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said he expected good relations with the US to continue, but a strategic partnership could not be an excuse for “Soviet methods” that ignore civilian control and existing laws.
According to the State Department, human rights problems in Lithuania in 2007 included poor prison conditions, illegally prolonged pretrial detention, police and government corruption, widespread domestic violence and child abuse, trafficking in women and girls, and increased reports of racial or ethnic violence and intolerance.
Frederick W.B. Coleman
Appointment: Sep 20, 1922
Presentation of Credentials: Dec 5, 1922
Termination of Mission: Left Riga, Oct 20, 1931
Note: Also accredited to Estonia and Latvia; resident at Riga.
Žygimantas Pavilionis is a career diplomat who became ambassador of Lithuania to the United States in August 2010.
The Baltic nation of Lithuania will soon have a new ambassador from the U.S., as President Obama on September 13 nominated career diplomat Deborah Ann McCarthy to serve her first ambassadorship in Vilnius. If confirmed by the Senate, McCarthy would succeed Anne Derse, who has been ambassador since 2009.
McCarthy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Virginia, and both an M.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. She also has a Certificate in Airline Strategic Management from the International Air Transport Association. McCarthy worked as a loan officer at a bank before joining the State Department.
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, McCarthy served early career assignments as a financial economist at the U.S. Embassy in Rome, Italy, and at the Department of Treasury, and also as desk officer for Guatemala. She served as economic counselor at the embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti, from 1991 to 1993, and at the embassy in Paris, France, from 1996 to 1998. She was deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Managua, Nicaragua, from 1998 to 2001, and consul general in Montréal, Canada, from 2001 to 2002.
Back in Washington, McCarthy served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement from 2002 to 2004, senior advisor for Counter Terrorism from 2004 to 2006, and special coordinator for Venezuelan Affairs from 2006 to 2008. She returned to Europe to serve as deputy chief of mission at the embassy in Athens, Greece, from 2008 to 2010. Since September 27, 2010, she has been principal deputy assistant secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, responsible for global economic engagement and negotiations.
McCarthy speaks French, Spanish, Greek, Italian and Haitian Creole.
- Matt Bewig
Deborah A. McCarthy: US is a Good Solid Area to Invest (by Lou Yi, China Daily)more