On February 6 Vice Minister of National Defence Vytautas Umbrasas met with a delegation of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy representatives. Vice Minister and three high-ranking representatives of the U.S Armed Forces – Brigadier General Stephen M. Neary, Rear Admiral Stephen C. Evans, and Rear Admiral John B. Skillman – discussed prospects of the U.S.-Lithuanian cooperation, Lithuania’s military infrastructure development and the potential to use it for joint training and exercises of the U.S. Navy and Marines with the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Possibilities of Lithuania’s support to Exercise BALTOPS to be held in the region later this year was also addressed.
Vice Minister V. Umbrasas thanked the U.S. Armed Forces representatives for the close cooperation and underscored the importance of the presence of U.S. forces and interoperability with Lithuanian forces when inviting the U.S. allies to continue deploying to Lithuania for joint exercises and other events.
“I am happy that we saw a considerable number of U.S. Marines in exercises BALTOPS, Flaming Sword, and Saber Strike in Lithuania last year. These exercise are of immense importance – we are strengthening deterrence, increasing interoperability, and rule out doubts if we are ready to respond to potential threats, Vice Minister V. Umbrasas said at the meeting.
Vice Minister also presented Lithuania’s defence investment, developed military infrastructure, and possibilities for its employment for different exercises and military training.
“Lithuania is proud to be a member of NATO and to live up to the commitment to allocate 2% of GDP for defence. We are upgrading national defence in a targeted way – greater capabilities, more up-to-date weaponry and equipment. U.S financial support and national resources are invested into military infrastructure that serves our and our allies’ needs,” V. Umbrasas said.
Representatives of the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy emphasised at the meeting the importance of Klaipėda Seaport for military mobility and transfer of forces into the region.
“Marines come by the sea and land. Easy Klaipėda port entry and simplified movement by land is the main need the allies have,” Brig Gen S. Neary said.
The U.S. representatives also underscored the meaning of protection of sea routes for regional security and the U.S. wish that Lithuania would retain naval mine neutralisation capabilities which would be vital in case of a crisis.
The high-ranking U.S. guests thanked for the unique opportunity they had to visit Lithuania for the first time. The Generals praised close cooperation with Lithuania and thanked for Lithuania’s efforts to enhance its own resilience and defence capabilities.
The United States is Lithuania’s strategic ally and also a key ally for regional security. The U.S. takes an active role in implementing the security measures in the Baltic countries, strengthening regional security and stability. The U.S. contributes with forces, equipment, and finance to our regional defence. Financial support under the European Deterrence Initiative to European countries, including Lithuania, for strengthening their defensive capabilities and improving military infrastructure is coherently increased by one third per year. Moreover, the U.S. is one of the main weaponry procurement partners. Lithuania is buying anti-aircraft missiles, Bushmaster turrets for combat vehicles, Javelin anti-tank systems, etc., from U.S. manufacturers. The advanced and new American military technology equipment will be acquired over the 3-4 coming years and will be a significant boost to the national defence capabilities. Lithuania is also currently in negotiations on acquisition of U.S.-manufactured JLTV all-terrain vehicles.
The United States deployed rotational army units in the Baltic states and Eastern Europe immediately after the Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014. The U.S. sent a battalion-sized battle group to Poland in 2017 as a contribution to the formation of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltic states and Poland. The U.S. also supports strengthening of air defence capabilities in the region, take up a leadership role and actively participates in arrangement of different military exercises in the Baltic states, deploys capabilities to the NATO Baltic Air Policing Mission.
Photo credit: OR-6 Lukas Kalvaitis (MoD)