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In review of six years in NATO Lithuanian Minister of Defence emphasized responsibility of Lithuania as NATO member to strengthen its national defence capabilities


29th of March is the day on which Lithuania entered NATO six years ago. Lithuanian Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė generalised challenges of defence policy encountered in the latter years and likely to be encountered in the immediate future said that the key objective of current efforts is strengthening national defence capabilities and that way contributing to strengthening the Alliance as a whole.


„NATO membership gives us guarantee of collective defence; however, it would be an irresponsible attitude to rely solely on the allies and not to pay sufficient attention to national defence", stressed R. Juknevičienė. „We have to do our „homework" first: step up national capabilities to prove our serious approach to security. We should not expect others commit to take risk for us if we are not properly ready ourselves".


In the recent year leadership of the Ministry of National Defence shifted focus of the Armed Forces to combat training. Efforts are also made to find an effective system of reserve formation, to ensure sufficient recruitment of the professional military service personnel of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, and to create opportunities for citizens to prepare for defence of the country.


Fulfilment of the mentioned objectives was impeded by the economic crisis and financing for national defence reduced to as low as subsistence minimum, R. Juknevičienė said. Previous activity plans of the national defence system had to be reconsidered and stringent priorities set with great expedition to keep existing military capabilities from harm as much as possible and to continue with undertaken commitments to the allies.


Evaluating the key objectives of Lithuania's NATO policy during the years of membership the Minister pointed out strong Alliance as a steadfast Lithuania's priority. In the context of this objective Lithuania sought consecutive planning of the Alliance's defence policy to be implemented and have NATO better prepared to respond to new security challenges, for example, in the energy security sector. Representatives of the National Defence System and other state institutions actively participated in discussions and rendered opinions regarding the NATO's Strategic Concept which defines commitments of collectives defence, transatlantic relations and missions of the Alliance.


Lithuania also strengthened the Alliance and fulfilled its commitments by contributing to generation of NATO's collective forces and NATO-led international operations. „Lithuania was forced to change its plans of participation in operations because of diminished budgeting. We have removed our forces from Kosovo to concentrate them in Afghanistan - the main Alliance's present priority. Troops sent to Afghanistan are also the biggest contribution of the entire Lithuania to the Afghanistan operation", the Minister said.


During the years of membership Lithuanian troops twice performed standby in the NATO Response Force, contractual commitments to generate international strategic airlift capabilities for the needs of NATO and other international organisations Lithuania is a member of were proceeded with, Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Lithuania's participation in formation of a multinational logistic unit for NATO operations.


The Minister highlighted that one of the central goals of the latter years was to add visibility to NATO's activity in the Baltic States, i.e. to prolong the Baltic Air-policing mission, to organise more military training events together with other NATO members, and other measures. Lithuania maintained close cooperation with its neighbours Latvia and Estonia to achieve that goal.



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