Lithuania mulls honoring Reagan with airport

AP News
Posted: Nov 09, 2011 9:53 AM
Lithuania mulls honoring Reagan with airport

One of the largest strategic air force bases in the former Soviet Union could soon be named in honor of Ronald Reagan.

The idea to honor Reagan in Lithuania originated in the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, which recently voted in favor of the move.

Throughout Eastern Europe, Reagan is idolized for his unyielding stance during the Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union.

The proposal to name Siauliai International Airport, located 130 miles (210 kilometers) northwest of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, in honor of the late U.S. president will need approval from a municipal commission and the Siauliai city council, but officials said Wednesday they are taking up the issue.

Vaclovas Vingras, deputy director of the Siauliai administration, said the commission would discuss the name-change Friday, while the city council would rule on it in late December. He refused to say whether the proposal would be accepted.

"From what I have heard, the mood is patriotic _ people are used to the current name of the airport," Vingras said. "But that's the opinion of ordinary people. We'll see on Friday what the commission's opinion is."

"(It) would be Lithuania's act of gratitude to America, which was then represented by President Ronald Reagan, for its fight against the Soviet empire of evil and especially for its support for enslaved nations," committee chairman Emanuelis Zingeris told The Associated Press.

"America and Ronald Reagan had an undeniable influence on strengthening democracy in Europe," he added.

Lithuania was swallowed up by the Soviet Union in World War II and only restored its independence in 1991.

The Siauliai airport contains two large air strips built to support long-range Soviet bombers destined for Europe and North America.

Currently the airport serves both civilian and military aircraft, including some NATO jets that patrol in the Baltic region.

There is already a Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, just outside the U.S. capital.