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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 4, 2005
Interview of the President by Lithuanian State Television
The Map Room
2:14 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. President, you thanked President Valdas Adamkus for his efforts spreading the freedom in neighboring countries. What else could Lithuania do spreading the freedom in this region?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first, I did thank the President for his good work in the Ukraine. I thought it was a really great moment when the head of Lithuania got involved and encouraged the whole world to take notice of the freedom movement in the Ukraine. And by the way, that's a -- the second election was a really important moment in the liberty movement. And I thanked him for that, genuinely so. And I want to say it again: I thank him for that.
Lithuania serves as a great example of what is possible. After years of being subjugated to harsh rule, the Lithuanians are now free, and they're showing they can grow the economy, and that people have a chance to express themselves, and there's a vibrant society when you're free. And it has been hard. The transition from communism to a free democracy is a hard transition. And it's very important for the Lithuanians and the government to share that experience with others who will be going through the same thing. And so I am very proud of Lithuania, and I'm proud to call her "friend."
Q Mr. President, you showed a strong support for democracy cause in Belarus. And what is your administration planning to do, given the fact that Belarus presidential election is planned next year?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we'll work with you, countries in the neighborhood, countries around -- the free countries of the world, to insist there be free elections, and make sure there's free elections. This is the last remaining dictatorship in Europe. And Condi Rice was in the neighborhood recently, as you know, Secretary of State Rice, and she brought up the subject. She met with people who are embracing the freedom movement in Belarus. I did, as well, when I was in Slovakia.
And so one of the roles that the United States can play is to speak clearly about the need for Belarus to be free, and to work with people to insist that Belarus be free. And when the elections come, make sure the elections are free, and have monitors and international observers. As you know, that made a big difference in the Ukraine, for example. No, it's -- and I think -- listen, I believe everybody wants to be free, and I believe if the world works together to achieve that, many people will be free.
Q Lithuania is taking a concrete role in the reconstructing of Afghanistan.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What kind of specific support do you ask -- offer Lithuania?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as you know, we've got for our partners in Iraq and -- we've got some solidarity funds. We want to work through the foreign aid money to help Lithuania in her efforts to help build a better world. Again, I applaud the President. I thank the people of Lithuania for the support in Afghanistan.
It's important that Afghanistan be free and peaceful; it will serve as an example for others. Again, I keep saying this to people, but you've just got to -- the people of Lithuania have got to know how I feel. I believe everybody desires to be free, and I believe everybody deserves to be free. Societies will grow up around different customs and habits. I don't expect people to look like American form of government, but I do believe the world ought to work together to enable people to live free lives, and then help countries, once they've become liberated from a tyrant, in the case of Afghanistan.
And that's what Lithuania is doing. And I'm confident the President is doing so because -- for the same reason I am, because he understands that free societies, in the long-run, will make the world peaceful. And that's what we want for our children and our grandchildren; we want there to be peace.
Q You're going to meet Mr. Putin. Will you repeat your words to him that the Second World War has brought the Soviet occupation to the Baltic states?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, of course I'll remind him of that. I told him in Slovakia that I felt it was important for him to understand that my friends, the leaders of the Baltics, are upset; in other words, they don't view the end of World War II as a great moment of celebration. And there's a reason why. He took it in. Your President has decided not to go to Moscow. I respect him for that decision. Each leader in the Baltics has to make the decision they're comfortable with. And it was a very difficult period, and so this is a hard decision. And I respect the decisions of the three leaders.
But I did make it clear to President Putin that there is great angst, and people don't view this as a liberating moment, and hopefully that he will work with the Baltics in a cooperative way, because it really is in Russia's interests to have free countries and democracies on her border. The more democracies on the border of a country, the more peaceful a country will be.
And so this is a bittersweet moment for a lot of people in America who are from the Baltics. A lot of Lithuanian Americans here, by the way, who, on the one hand, are really happy the United States defeated Nazism, on the other hand saw their homeland taken over by a repressive, communist regime.
Q Mr. President, thank you. It was a pleasure.
THE PRESIDENT: Great. And listen, I want to say one other thing: I want to thank the people of Lithuania for the warm reception Laura and I received the last time we were there. It was one of the great visits of my presidency. I remember sitting in the town -- standing in the town square, and it was very interesting, seeing a lot of older Lithuanians with tears in their eyes. I guess they never thought they'd see the day where the American President came. It touched my heart a lot. And then I saw a lot of young Lithuanians wondering what the heck the American President was all about -- you know, they kind of -- so it was a very touching visit.
Q Thank you.
END 2:21 P.M. EDT