President of the Republic of Lithuania

NATO needs to make decisions faster, Lithuanian president says

2017-09-14

Lithuania is pushing for NATO to reform so that it makes decisions faster, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė told CNBC.

The President of Lithuania joins us on the phone now and welcome to our programme. Let me ask you: you had to live next door to the Kaliningrad Oblast for forever it seems. You are no stranger to the intimidation of Moscow. Dalia, why does the military exercise that’s taking place look different, if it does?

For centuries we have been living close to Russia and today we live also with Belarus, because the exercises are not only in Kaliningrad, but also on Belarusian soil. Historically we know our neighbour, we know how much we can trust [it] and we have learned how to survive. So while we do not have an expectation yet that they are changing, opposite, we see that intentions to demonstrate excessive military muscle against small neighbours still are a habit, still is the behaviour and we evaluate it as a kind of aggressive posturing, in history and in today’s time, never brings respect or fame and only shame. So if Russia wants to be shamed, that’s what they’re doing today.

The Russians, for their part, and lets just focus on this for a moment, might argue that we now have a President in the White House who is unpredictable, perhaps apparently reckless in his comment on foreign policy. Do you think the Russians themselves may begin to feel a little paranoid about NATO and President Trump’s intensions for the body.

I can say that in our region, in the Baltics and Poland, we have about one NATO soldier against ten Russian soldiers in the western district of Russia. So I don’t know what kind of background could be for paranoid reactions. I think that we can say that still our neighbour, Russia, is still very, very unpredictable and it’s proved this unpredictability with its activities in occupying Crimea in east Ukraine and in Georgia.

Now the Kremlin claims it has invited foreign observers to these military exercises. Can I ask you Madam President whether the invitation has been extend to Lithuania? Have you received any such invitation?

Yes, we do, for two people, but only for the VIP exercises while the exercises already started a few weeks before and probably they will be standard beyond this week. The problem is usually that, the habit was not say the whole truth about the scale of the exercises and usually we do not trust what they say – we try to see what they do.

Can you clarify for me – you believe that when these exercises are over troops will leave, but there is a risk that hardware and military equipment will remain on the Belarus’ soil. What leads you to that conclusion Madam President?

Build-up of the equipment is going on intensively in Kaliningrad, but of course they are an ally of Belarus and military cooperation with Belarus is increasing. It’s a very large probability that part of the equipment could be left behind even with some forces, because today the aggressiveness and offensive exercises in Belarus’ territory are taking place.

Can you tell us a little bit about the preparedness that your own forces have to meet any potential threat from this exercise?

History teaches us that we need to see and watch and prepare for the activities of Russia. During these last two, three years and its very satisfactory that after the occupation of Crimea NATO started to take this very seriously and start to reform itself. Because of that, today we have not only NATO EFP battle battalion, but we do have bilaterally the United States’ forces on our soil. In all four countries, three Baltic and Poland, we have four NATO battalions, 23 countries are present on our territories today from 28 of our allies. This shows that we are prepared as never before to react, to watch, to see what's happening behind our borders. This is the first time we have such preparedness. This also helped us to reform NATO and to push NATO to be reformed further. That’s exactly because we started to realise and evaluate the threats more realistically.

So on balance, when you consider the military balances, Madam President, do you think the NATO forces, despite the defence cuts are equally matched or have the edge against Russian forces?

Not yet. I think that for posture and measures of deterrence it is adequate for today, but for defence we need to invest more. NATO needs to prepare to make decisions faster, to reallocate the military posture in Europe closer to the Eastern NATO borders. The decision making needs to be given more for secure type of decisions, not only stay on diplomatic levels. We need to invest into air defence. A lot of things still need to be done. Already we did a lot, but still needs to be done. Ourselves, you asked before, all Baltic States from next year will have two percent of spending already on the table. Lithuania, we created rapid reaction forces so we are modernising our army. We restored conscription and we have our people coming voluntarily to our army, so people are united as never before, they know what neighbour is behind our borders. We are already under pressure of cyber-attacks and fake news and informational war, so all this is already taken care [of] and we are able to dismantle it [the threat] immediately because we learned how to recognise it.

Alright, Dalia, thank you so much for being with us. Real pleasure having you on the programme. Dalia Grybauskitė, the President of Lithuania on these Russian military exercises.

Press Service of the President

Last updated 2017.09.14 12:09

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