Paksas's foreign policy will be based on efforts to integrate with the West and to develop and strengthen economic relationships with other countries. Lithuania became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in May 2001. In November 2002, NATO formally invited Lithuania to join the organization, along with 6 other countries, including Latvia and Estonia, the first former Soviet republics to join. After the NATO summit in November, President Adamkus hosted U.S. President Bush, the first-ever visit by a U.S. president to Lithuania. In December 2002, the EU officially invited the country to become a member as of May 2004. A referendum on EU accession is scheduled for May 2003. The EU has stressed that Lithuania needs to strengthen its judicial system and fight corruption.
Relations with Russia have remained of primary importance. Because citizenship was granted to virtually all Russians living in Lithuania, relations with Russia had been better than those of Estonia and Latvia. In 1993, the last Russian troops left Lithuania. Still, the Russian government opposed Lithuanian membership in NATO. Brazauskas was the first Baltic president to visit Russia, signing a border treaty in Moscow in October 1997.
Lithuania continues to cultivate strong relations with Estonia and Latvia. The Baltic States have maintained a free trade agreement since 1994. One issue that has caused some recent strain with Latvia has been the plan to develop Latvian oil reserves in contested waters of the Baltic Sea.
In his inaugural address, Paksas pledged to adhere to principles of freedom and democracy, and to protect the values of civilization in the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. Lithuania supported the U.S.-led coalition in its 2002–03 position on the disarmament of Iraq. In doing so, it took a risk in potentially alienating other European countries, particularly France, Germany, and Russia. All three of those European nations adopted vocal anti-war stances prior to the war in Iraq, which began on 19 March 2003.