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Speech of the Minister of National Defence Rasa Juknevičienė delivered at the University of Taras Shevchenko in Ukrain

2011.04.19

Lithuania after seven years in NATO and the EU

 

Very symbolic meeting. Taras Shevchenko (a poet, artist and humanist spent several important years of his youth in Vilnius) - a symbol of Ukrainian national independence. This is one of many things which unite our states, some six centuries ago Lithuania and Ukraine formed a common state.

 

In my speech I would like to concentrate on Lithuania, which this year is commemorating seven-year membership of NATO and the EU. I would like to share with you our security perspective, the challenges we face and what we are doing to respond them.

 

20 years ago for many in the world it was difficult to believe that one day Lithuania would join these Euro-Atlantic institutions. Indeed, it is a success story of the Baltic States – today only these three former Soviet republics belong to the most powerful Alliance in the world – NATO. For me, having grown up on the other side of the Iron Curtain, where the end point of the world was the sunset in the Baltic sea in Palanga, it is a great achievement for Lithuania. From this time perspective our present security challenges look small and insignificant. What we have today – in terms of security – the dream came through. But the current dynamic world demonstrates how rapidly could change its peacefulness and comfort.

 

The Lisbon proved that the Alliance is an organisation of equal members, where even small countries like Lithuania can determine NATO vision, future and political decisions. NATO is a reliable organisation where member efforts are valued and concerns are taken into account. The new NATO Strategic Concept adopted majority provisions reflecting Lithuania‘s interests. The best known expression of NATO solidarity is its air policing mission of the Baltic States, lasting already 7 years, we expect it to become a permanent NATO mission.

 

Lithuania’s security policy is shaped by the three interconnected dimensions: the Western dimension – developments within NATO and the EU, also relations between the US and Europe; the Eastern dimension - developments in Russia and other Eastern neighbours; the regional dimension - regional security cooperation.

 

The US presence in Europe - vital for the Western dimension, the transatlantic link - the basic foundation of the Euro-Atlantic security. The US remains a consolidating actor, ensuring strategic balance and enabling constructive relations between our region and Russia.

 

The key question in the Eastern dimension - relations with Russia. The NATO summit in Lisbon confirmed NATO’s forward leaning towards cooperation with Russia in a more substantial way. In addition to the previous practical initiatives, NATO came up with a very important project, a strong confidence building measure - to jointly create missile defence system.

 

The main obstacle for the productive relations between Russia and the Baltic States - the legacy of imperial syndrome to treat the Baltic States as areas of Russia’s ‘privileged interests’. Russian intention to dominate our region is still here. It is directly related with Russia’s unwillingness to acknowledge facts of history, her reluctance to acknowledge the crimes of the Soviet occupation. Historical past is a fundament on which relations between states are built.

 

Tensions in relations with Russia will remain unless she starts to accept true history in the way Germany did. When this happens, we will see huge positive changes not only in Russia-Baltic relations but also in Russia’s relations with her neighbouring countries and Europe or the world at large.

 

We do understand that it’s a long way to go as we speak about a revolutionary change in the post-imperial Russian mentality. On the other hand, we see some uncouraging steps from Russia’s side: improving relations with Poland after the Smolensk tragedy and tries to take a fair look at her own history.

 

I have in mind a recent proposal of the Council of Human Rights and Civil Society Development at the Russian Presidential Office to recognize responsibility of the USSR for the crimes of the totalitarian regime (genocide and the Second World War). It is the only way Russia should go, there is no other alternative for her seeking to become a modernized and respectable state.

 

For us it is essential that Russia is engaged into the integration processes with Euro-Atlantic structures. But it is two-way street. The key principle here is reciprocity. The ball now is in Russia’s court.

 

On national level Lithuania pursues pragmatic and principled approach towards cooperation with Russia. We have had fruitful cooperation with Kaliningrad region. Our new proactive steps to open and straightforward dialogue with Russia (practical initiatives to cooperate in cleaning up the Baltic Sea from conventional ammunition; establish a hot line with Kaliningrad; create a Lithuanian-Russian Trust Forum to jointly look into sensitive issues related to our historical past) so far received little reciprocity from Russia. But we will continue working with Russia, without sacrificing our principles and values. This is our long term commitment.

 

The regional dimension: the Baltic region - the most stable and predictable region. Baltic integration into NATO and the EU has a positive impact on the regional security. Mixed security environment: conventional security challenges (Russia’s large-scale military exercises with conventional war scenarios close to our border); and asymmetric security threats and challenges - cyber and energy security.

 

Closer defence cooperation - an important trend in today’s Europe (UK + France; Nordic cooperation; Benelux countries are pooling their resources). We should do our part as well. We have interest in moving forward regional security cooperation and consolidation. The US and UK are showing great interest in strengthening cooperation in the Northern dimension.

 

Our most important direction - enhanced cooperation between Nordic and Baltic countries, including joint training, participation in operations and EU Battle Groups.

 

Among three Baltic States for many years we have had very close defence cooperation, common Baltic projects, and now defence integration is becoming our new political ambition.

 

Poland - our very important regional and strategic partner with whom we have substantial projects almost in every sphere – be it economy, energy, foreign affairs, and understandably – defence area. A project which is equally important for Ukraine – LITPOLUKRBRIG, which is expected to achieve its initial operational capability already in the second half of 2012 .

 

Being a small state, Lithuania is not the biggest player in these three dimensions. With limited capabilities, we seek to implement our security policy by focusing primarily on NATO and EU and seek to ensure our fair share to the international security (contribution to Afghanistan, participation in EU Battle Groups and the NRF).

 

Building of secure neighbourhood – a strategic interest of Lithuanian defence and security policy The top priority - to make a difference – to develop cooperation with our Eastern neighbours in such a way that would contribute to their security and economic prosperity, democratic development, which would positively affect our regional and European security.

 

The principle of inclusiveness - the guiding principle for the future of Europe. Europe is not whole and free yet. Today’s Europe is in the making and this process is far from completed. In my view, the process of completion of Europe remains its key role. [It cannot be European security architecture without Russia; equally – without Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus and other Eastern European partners.]

 

Having some 600 km of common border with Belarus Lithuania pays great attention to the political developments there. We pursue a package (differentiated and balanced) approach towards Belarus: our efforts to support democratization, the selective cooperation with the governmental institutions and attempts to reduce isolation of the country. Our long-term goal - democratic, independent and sovereign Belarus, taking its proper place in Europe.

 

For the same reason Ukraine is so important for us. Ukraine’s important role in Euro-Atlantic security has been proved by your continued contribution to regional security and all major NATO operations. Your security is also part of our security, as we face similar threats and share similar interests.

 

I particularly would like to single out energy security - an issue of high importance to both the EU and Eastern partners, being very dependent on one energy supplier – Russia, which has been perfectly exploiting her energy ‘weapon’.

 

To increase energy security - the main direction of activities of the current Lithuanian government, which has started to implement several important projects to ensure energy diversification:

 

o developing energy infrastructure links with the EU- electricity interconnections of the Baltic States with Poland and the Nordic countries (with Sweden to construct an undersea cable linking the two countries’ electrical grids);

o plans to build a LNG terminal to diversify our gas supplies away from Russia (Klaipėda port to be used for building such a terminal);

o seeking for an investor to a new nuclear power plant (instead of closed Ignalina NPP);

o trying to diminish Gazprom’s monopoly in the gas sector by implementing the 3rd EU initiative (separation between gas supply and transportation).

 

All these steps have already provoked very strong Russia‘s reaction followed by the discriminative measures - 15 per cent higher price for the gas compared with the countries which are not implementing this EU directive (e.g. Latvia and Estonia). We also perceive two nuclear power plants to be build in our close neighbourhood (in Belarus and Kaliningrad) as Russia’s efforts to ruin our plans to build our new NPP in Ignalina.

 

Energy security is increasingly becoming an issue also on NATO agenda. In Lisbon there was concluded that it is a sensitive issue for the Alliance. Some points which define NATO’s added value in energy security: identify and build on NATO’s defence capabilities in the field of energy security; the ways how to deal with disruption of energy flows, to protect critical infrastructure and shipping lines should be found; the support to NATO operations by providing targeted technical, scientific assessments on the vulnerabilities of the stable energy supply should be guaranteed. There is a need also to ensure proper Allied consultations with partners on energy security.

 

In order to strengthen NATO’s potential in this field Lithuania has established Energy Security Centre under the MFA guidance but with active contribution of the MOD, currently functioning as a national centre with a vision to become NATO’s Center of Excellence. Pooling outstanding experts both from Allied and partner countries, including yours, is of critical importance to the success of this centre.

 

To conclude, the result of bloody 20th century developments – a divided Europe. The Second World War even more contributed to this division. The main task of our generation and those after us – unification of Europe on the various basis: economy, energy, culture, and of course – values. Ukraine is a key milestone in this process. Without Ukraine’s integration into Europe there is no real European security.

2015-07-24 06:31

Mera

I found myself nodding my noggin all the way thghuro.
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