restricted access Chapter 25. The Fall of the Soviet Union
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PART V International Politics v v CHAPTER 25 The Fall of the Soviet Union I n January, I announced my intention to seek reelection, and state representative Dick Waterfield announced that he would run against me. Waterfield was a wealthy rancher from Canadian, Texas, who was into horse racing. One of his horses had run in the Kentucky Derby. Waterfield had the money to commit to the race. The Republicans in my district would do whatever they could to defeat me and return my seat to their party. I was focused on the Lithuanian elections, which were being held in March. Several countries had agreed to observe the elections to make sure they were conducted fairly. President Bush sent Dick Durbin, Chris Cox, John Miller, and me to Vilnius, Lithuania, to represent the United States as official observers. We flew to Berlin and were scheduled to fly into Vilnius the next day. When we got to our hotel in Berlin, the Soviets told us to give them our passports so they could give us a visa to enter the country. That night Dr. Landsbergis called to report that representatives from most of the European countries had arrived, and they looked forward to seeing us. He was very excited and hopeful that his party would win so Lithuania could finally break free from the Soviet Union. The next morning the Soviets did not return our passports and visas. The four of us were furious. Dick Durbin quickly called a press conference in our hotel lobby. The news was broadcast worldwide: the Soviets had taken passports from four US congressmen. The Soviets were 260 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch denying the US congressmen their agreed-­ upon opportunity to observe the Lithuanian elections on behalf of the United States. Dr. Landsbergis phoned again. “I am very disappointed you will not be here on Election Day, but the news about you and the other members is all over the newspapers in Lithuania. It is helping our cause.” “We’re not going back to the States,” I told him. “We plan to wait for the Soviets to return our documents. We still have every intention of going to Lithuania.” The following day, the Soviets returned our passports and allowed us to enter Lithuania but limited our time there to only eighteen hours. We arrived in Vilnius late that evening. Dr. Landsbergis and his delegation met us at the airport and took us to the Sajudis Party headquarters, which was located across the street from the Vilnius Cathedral. Crowds had gathered in the courtyard in front of the cathedral to celebrate the elections. Dr. Landsbergis showed us the election results, which were written in pencil and taped on the wall beside the door. Dr. Landsbergis had been elected president of the new republic of Lithuania. There were forty-­ two seats in total, and the Sajudis Party had won thirty-­ six seats, leaving the Communists with only six seats. The other congressmen and I held another press conference. Reporters from all over the world covered the event, asking us to comment Flag that had been flown over the US Capitol and presented to President Landsbergis. Courtesy of the Sarpalius family. The Fall of the Soviet Union • 261 on the Soviets withholding our passports, which denied us access to observe the Lithuanian elections. That had been the task, the very reason for coming here, and the Soviets knew that. Dick Durbin, Chris Cox, John Miller, and I presented a US flag, which had flown over the US Capitol, to President Landsbergis to honor independence for Lithuania. “This flag is a worldwide symbol of freedom,” I told President Landsbergis , “and we, as members of Congress, are proud of your courage in declaring independence for your country.” Following the press conference, we went to the Vilnius Cathedral across the street. The crowd continued to sing and celebrate. The interior of the church looked like a construction site. Workers were erecting scaffolding, extending all the way to the ceiling, so that they could remove the pale-­ green paint on the walls and ceiling. The Soviets had used this cathedral as their Communist Party museum and warehouse. Now the Lithuanians were cleaning out their church. We boarded a bus with the newly elected leaders of Lithuania for Kaunas, where we were to rescue Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius, the first cardinal appointed to Lithuania in three hundred years. The cardinal had been held in solitary confinement by the Soviets in a remote house...


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