Lithuania joined NATO in 2004, and has shown leadership in areas such as the stabilisation of Afghanistan and energy security.
“I thank you for that leadership. And I look forward to further leadership as we tackle the challenges which lie ahead – including the economic crisis,” the Secretary General said after a meeting with President Dalia Grybauskaitė.
He also met Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and Defence Minister Juozas Olekas, and held talks with the speaker of the Seimas and parliamentary leaders.
In Afghanistan, Lithuanian soldiers lead a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Ghor province. In Vilnius, Lithuania has established a Centre of Excellence in Energy Security which was awarded NATO accreditation in October 2012.
Mr. Fogh Rasmussen stressed that all Allies must stay committed to capable and effective defences, even in times of economic crisis.
“We must continue to keep our defence strong and to keep NATO strong,” he underlined. “Lithuania has recognized the need to increase defence spending: I urge you to carry through on that important commitment.”
The Secretary General’s agenda also included a visit to the Šiauliai air base, which hosts the Allied deployments in support of NATO's air policing mission in the Baltic states, and a meeting with members of the Royal Danish Detachment participating in the air policing mission. This mission allows the Baltic States to concentrate their capabilities in other areas.
Since the mission began, 14 different Allies have provided aircraft for the mission. More have expressed an interest in joining, the Secretary General said.
“NATO is committed to Lithuania – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year,” he said.