Monday, June 6, Vilnius – President Dalia Grybauskaitė awarded the Cross of Commander of the Order for Merits to Lithuania to Lieutenant General Frederick Benjamin Hodges, U.S. Army Europe Commander.
The General was awarded for his special merits to strengthening the security of Lithuania. Two years ago, General Hodges responded very quickly to the aggression in Ukraine and took active steps to immediately deploy U.S. rotational forces and military equipment in the Baltic states. According to the President, Lithuania highly values the firm support of the United States and its security guarantees for the Baltic countries.
Dalia Grybauskaitė and the General discussed preparations for the upcoming NATO summit. The President pointed out that NATO’s deterrence to be agreed by NATO leaders in Warsaw had to be based on specific capabilities, allowing for an effective counter-action against threats on NATO’s Eastern flank.
The President stressed that it was necessary to maintain a continuous rotation of U.S. troops in Lithuania and conduct intensive military exercises based on real threat scenarios. It is essential to continuously improve interoperability between Lithuanian and U.S. military units. Collective defense capabilities have to be well organized and function under a unified defense plan.
The General praised Lithuania for its decisions to strengthen national defense by reinstating compulsory military service, increasing defense spending and modernizing the armed forces. The U.S. Army Europe Commander emphasized that he often cited Lithuania as a model example for rapid and effective reinforcement of defenses.
U.S. troops have been actively participating in NATO’s exercises in the Baltic countries since last year. NATO’s international exercise Saber Strike will start in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia next week. About 500 U.S. troops are arriving in Lithuania for the exercise. Around ten thousand troops will be present in all three Baltic countries. This is the biggest military exercise in the region in recent years.
Lithuania supports General Hodges’ proposal to create a “military Schengen zone” in Europe, which would ease bureaucratic barriers and facilitate the movement of NATO’s support across the Baltic countries, if needed.
The meeting also focused on the pre-positioning of U.S military equipment in Lithuania, which is one of the most important measures to accelerate the arrival of NATO Response Force. Among the other issues discussed were prospects for developing a unified air defense architecture in the Baltic countries and the need to change NATO’s Baltic Air Policing mission to air defense mission. According to Dalia Grybauskaitė, U.S. military expertise and political support are very significant in this respect.
Last updated 2016.06.06 15:58Back