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Krašto apsaugos ministro Juozo Oleko pasisakymas Strateginių ir tarptautinių studijų centre (JAV) vykusiose diskusijose, skirtose aptarti Baltijos šalių saugumo perspektyvas (anglų k.)

2013.10.25

Baltic security: Lithuanian view

 

In Lithuania there is a long lived story about the advertisement in a newspaper saying “Proposal for exchange: I’m trading my independence for a secure geographical location”.

And it is not only a joke. During interwar period one of the most prominent political philosopher Pakštas has proposed very seriously to the Government to consider buying an island close to the Africa’s shores. He was sure Lithuanians would never be secure and finally will face the extinction.

Well, reality is what it is and we can’t change it. We can’t choose our neighbours and really smart is the one who manages to survive and thrive in the given situation.

Baltic States have always been between West and East. From one side this is a big challenge as it means constant uncertainty and instability. From the other side this might be a possibility serving as a bridge uniting these two entities.

 

So how should one live in such uncertainty and instability? Actually there is nothing new I can tell you. We are basing our security on three main pillars:

1. Strong and capable NATO with strong transatlantic link. By strong I mean that we have to be able to take decisions in NATO. By capable I mean that we have to be able to implement those decisions.

2. United Europe. By united I mean not so much our economic or social integration. We have to be able to speak one voice, to have one voice on defense and policy matters. However we are far away from it yet.

3. Stable and cooperative Eastern Partnership so we would have real partners not the rivals in the East.

 

What is the glue uniting all these three pillars? Is there anything common between them? I believe the common thing is that everything is achievable if there is mutual trust and respect. To put it in other words – if there is a collective thinking. If we would achieve it, all three pillars would be fine and we would be able to solve any existing challenges and problems.

 

Unfortunately, today we are witnessing many cracks. Iraq, Libya and especially Syria events have shown that we are not able to act together. And it is not only America and Europe that cannot find common grounds.

European unity is cracking as well. We can witness hostility between periphery and big central states, claims that old members are deprived of workplaces, sovereignty and may loose statehood itself, others claiming of being robbed.

 

The problems related to nationalism have always been present in Europe. The USA participation and footprint has brought stability in Europe and pushed it towards the integration process. However current economic crises has brought extreme thinking back. We can hear voices calling for disintegration of the EU, withdrawal of the US missiles from Europe and similar. Europe is not stable and I am convinced that US presence in Europe is still very much needed and extremely important.

 

So why there is no unity and what can be done to revive the spirit of collectivism? I believe unity can be achieved through common actions.

 

That is why understanding the importance of collective thinking Lithuania:

- First, from the very beginning has joined operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places and supported decisions on Syria;

- Second, Lithuania has joined projects like AGS, C17, missile defence and alike, which make the allies to act together. Another excellent example of so called smart defence is NATO Air Policing Mission over the Baltic States. We do all have to understand that our future lies in our ability to act together, to understand that NATO Air Policing mission does serve the interests not only of the Baltic States, but of the whole Alliance as it guards the borders of NATO and the EU.

- Third, we are strong proponents of exercises and it is not only because of our security concerns. I would very much subscribe to what George Friedman has written about the nostalgia for old NATO when everybody was planning and exercising together, when you knew and understood each other. Thus there is no surprise we are very much interested in NATO having large scale division size exercises every year. Some say that we should listen to the logics of economy which is not in the best shape now. However I am convinced that first of all we should listen to the logic of values.

- Fourth, we are making all the possible nets of cooperation seeking security through interdependence. We started with so called BALTDREAM project where all three Baltic States have put their efforts together creating capabilities we would never be able to have separately. So we have BALTNET, BALTRON, BALTDEFCOL, BALTBAT and other projects. Is it easy? No, it is not. Sometimes we do also face some challenges emerging from selfish interests, however we do see the value and importance of such cooperation and we are willing to overcome obstacles on our way.

 

Similarly we are engaging more and more with Nordic countries, expanding our cooperation to common projects, for example thinking of one united exercises plan in the region that would allow streamlining our efforts for the best results possible. Nordic and Baltic states are among most active partners in operations and we plan to cooperate in this field as well. Our cooperation also goes behind defence and security issues. We do a lot together in energy security field building links and liquid gas stations. Together with Denmark we are working a lot on energy proficiency in military and green energy issues. And there are many other projects I will not mention.

 

- Finally we are building cooperation with Eastern partners. Together with Poland we try to engage Ukraine. I do hope our joint project LITPOLUKRBRIG will be given a go. We do work very closely with Georgia, Moldova and other countries. It is also worth mentioning that we have made Eastern partnership one of the priorities of our EU Presidency. Both us and Eastern partners have to pay a price for that but I am convinced closer engagement with Eastern countries is very important process and we should not loose our Eastern partners as it has happened to Armenia.

 

To sum up, I am convinced that mutual trust and respect comes through very concrete projects. And these projects not only allow us to achieve a certain degree of interoperability, create real capabilities. What is more important, acting shoulder-to-shoulder helps us to come to collective thinking as it was during the Cold War. If there will be mutual trust and understanding we will be able to solve all kinds of security challenges.

 

Thank you for your attention.

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