Opening statement

by the Lithuanian Armed Forces Commander Major General Jonas Vytautas Žukas

  • 19 Sep. 2014 - 21 Sep. 2014
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  • Last updated: 29 Sep. 2014 17:34

Good afternoon everybody,

This is a great honour and a great responsibility for Lithuania to host the visit of the NATO Military Authorities and the NATO Military Committee Conference.  It is a big occasion for Lithuania indeed, only 27 years later can we have another event as momentous as we have today. We have discussed that today. Now let me focus on the aspects concerning Lithuania.

We had interesting and intense discussions. Like the Chairman of the Military Committee has just mentioned, we have discussed the implementation of the decisions of the NATO Summit in Wales and NATO operations. We are very satisfied with the progress in Afghanistan where the new president will become known today. The ISAF operation is approaching conclusion and Lithuania is gradually withdrawing its soldiers – we will close the mission of the Air Mentoring Team operating in Kandahar next week, and the Lithuanian Special Operations Forces will be carrying out service till the end of next year. We are ready to contribute to the new NATO mission Resolute Support the following year as soon as the necessary legal framework is agreed with the government of Afghanistan. 

The Alliance will further maintain its enhanced presence in our region on land, at sea and in the air. A U.S. infantry company is deployed in Lithuania, additional air policing capabilities have been sent, and NATO presence in the Baltic Sea has been strengthened, whereas Lithuania has commissioned a land force company to train with the U.S. forces.  

Further on, we had successful bilateral talks with three more nations and they will deploy additional forces to Lithuania in the nearest future, which means they will contribute a new rotation of additional NATO forces in Lithuania.  

Today’s conference focussed on the formation of a Very High Readiness Joint Task Force. Like it has been mentioned earlier, NATO is only beginning to prepare the plans for the establishment of this capability and just like other NATO Chiefs of Defence in a short while I will present the position on Lithuania’s input into the formation of this capability.

The most important task for the Lithuanian Armed Forces now is to do their homework appropriately. The Minister has already addressed the Seimas for expanding two of the most important training ranges so that hosted forces can undertake training properly. Soon we will expeditiously repair and expand the facilities of the Šiauliai Air Base of the Lithuanian Air Force.

Like I said in our meeting on Friday [Ed: with the Media], we are prepared for the establishment of a Command and Control Element in Lithuania because it is speed that now matters – the political decisions have been made, and the key objective of the Lithuanian Armed Forces is to put them into practice as operatively as possible so that all the measures of deterrence are ensured

To conclude, I would like to emphasise that defence of our country rests primarily with us, therefore I will put in hard effort in parallel with NATO so that we are ready to give a speedy response to an aggressor and accept any assistance from NATO in case it proves necessary.