- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

Lithuanian review

The Lithuanian ambassador looked over his sparsely furnished office yesterday and pointed to the four remaining photos on display.

“Two presidents and two Holy Fathers,” said Ambassador Vygaudas Usackas.

The framed photos of President Bush, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Pope Benedict XVI and the late Pope John Paul II will come down soon, as Mr. Usackas finishes packing the mementos of his six years as ambassador to the United States.

His tour in Washington was marked by historic events and was rich in symbolism for the 41-year-old diplomat, who grew up under Soviet occupation but discovered the political philosophy of Thomas Jefferson, which became the inspiration for a career promoting democracy in Lithuania. During his years here, he made a pilgrimage to Jefferson’s Virginia home at Monticello.

Mr. Usackas arrived in Washington in March 2001. Six months later, the city changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks of September 11. That morning, he was hosting a visit by Mr. Adamkus, who had a 4 p.m. meeting scheduled with Mr. Bush. That meeting was postponed to January 2002.

Later that year, Mr. Usackas returned to Lithuania to prepare for a visit to the capital, Vilnius, by Mr. Bush, who became the first U.S. president to travel to the Baltic nation.

Crowds waving American and Lithuanian flags cheered Mr. Bush on Nov. 23, 2002, when he welcomed Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia, into NATO. They would be formally admitted to the Western alliance in 2004.

“That was a remarkable event, a truly historical event,” Mr. Usackas said, noting that the crowds gathered in subzero weather more than three hours before Mr. Bush spoke at 10:30 that Saturday morning. “It was cold, but we could withstand the cold, just as we withstood Soviet occupation.”

Lithuania has demonstrated its appreciation for the United States, which never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states, by joining the “coalition of the willing,” the ambassador said. Lithuania deployed 60 special forces troops to Afghanistan and 120 to Iraq.

“It is seen as our contribution to the future of freedom in those countries,” he added.

Mr. Usackas yesterday continued saying his farewells. He met with National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and will say goodbye to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when he attends her Fourth of July celebration.

“I feel very much blessed that the opportunity was provided for me during the term of George W. Bush, a champion of freedom and democracy, to serve Lithuania in the U.S.,” he said.

Before reporting to his next position as ambassador to Britain, Mr. Usackas will lead a delegation of Lithuanian students on a summer visit to Siberia — where 250,000 Lithuanians were imprisoned under Soviet rule — so they will understand the price of freedom.

“There is a new generation coming, and they do not have an appreciation of our country’s struggle. This generation is taking freedom for granted,” he said.

Russian condolences

The Russian Embassy today will open a book of condolences to pay tribute to the five Russian Embassy employees killed by terrorists in Iraq. Guests can sign the book from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the embassy at 2650 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Gitmo briefing

A day after the Supreme Court ruling on the Guantanamo Bay prison, the head of a European delegation that traveled to the site at the U.S. naval base in Cuba will discuss her findings at a 3 p.m. press conference today at the National Press Club.

Anne-Marie Lizin, president of the Belgian Senate, led the delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe on the March visit.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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