Dr Laima Liucija Andrikienė, Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania on March 17, gave a testimony before the United States Commission on Security ad Cooperation in Europe in the hearing on Game Changer: the Baltics under pressure. We would like to present you with the entire testimony.
It is an honour and a timely opportunity to appear before you today.
Let me start by saying that the global democratic world order in the past decades has been greatly challenged by the autocratic regimes of Russia and China. This competition of powers shaped the security environment and brought a lot of tensions over time. Up until February 24. This day not only changed the established but deceptive peace in Europe, exposing the real goals of the autocratic state of Russia but also unified the democratic western world and created the legend of the greatness of the Ukrainian nation.
The Baltic States for many years have been the whistleblowers trying to draw the attention of the whole world to Russia’s real intentions and ill perception of the world order. The Russian revisionist policy cannot be eliminated by making concessions or one-sided promises to “reset” the relations.
Russia has chosen confrontation with the Western world and will remain a major threat for many years to come. Our necessity is to establish a credible defence since any conflict on our soil would be too costly not only for our nations but also for the Alliance. For many geographic and historical reasons, the Baltic region was bound to remain the most vulnerable part of the NATO Alliance, which required the special attention of NATO military planners and Allies. In addition to the Suwalki Gap issue, Russia’s de facto absorption of Belarus means more than a double increase in the length of the Lithuania-Russia border, which is the NATO-Russia border. Increased Russia’s military footprint in Belarus and its engagement in the war against Ukraine is a game-changer and significantly affects defence calculus in our region and requires the implementation of additional defence measures.
As we all witness today, the Kremlin employs massive propaganda and disinformation campaigns to justify its aggression against Ukraine and conceal its war crimes and atrocities. Kremlin’s anti-Western narratives and its interpretation of the sanctions applied against Russia and of the support provided to Ukraine by the West as an alleged involvement in the war against Russia serve the Kremlin as a means of shifting the blame.
Strengthening deterrence is no longer enough. We need to build a credible defence before it is too late. We must change our approach by moving from deterrence based on limited forward presence and reinforcement to deterrence by denial and forward defence. This requires re-posturing of our forces and a change in our mindset. The necessary measures should be taken immediately and continue in the long term.
We have already taken robust measures to improve the Host Nation Support capacity and are ready to host the United States and NATO forces by providing infrastructure, which would enable rapid and smooth deployment of forces and their operation on the territory of our countries and necessary training conditions. We call on the USA to step up its efforts to ensure our defence, particularly by stationing additional substantial permanent combat forces. Prepositioning U.S. military equipment and enhancing our region’s air defence would significantly improve our security.
Air defence with anti-aircraft and long-range missile defence assets is crucial in our region. We need our own Iron Dome. Air defence over the Baltic States has to be enhanced by deploying necessary assets such as combat aviation and surface-based air defence of short, medium and long ranges in and around the Baltic States. It would show the political backbone of NATO and give us credibility that NATO is ready to and will indeed protect every inch of its territory. For that, we need a strong political will from the U.S. side.
Firm support of the U.S. Congress for a persistent U.S. military presence and capability development in the Baltic region is crucial.
Lithuania is serious about its defence spending, which will reach two point five per cent of our GDP this year. We will not stop at that.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Whilst Russia remains the biggest and the most imminent conventional threat to the Baltic States, China is becoming a pacing threat to our national security. While Putin’s regime uses heavy weaponry, China is weaponizing cross-border economic and trade relations. China is eager to dominate, not to cooperate.
We have always backed U.S. efforts to defend our common democratic values and contain China’s global ambitions. Nevertheless, China targets the Lithuanian economy with “undeclared sanctions” and applies various trade restrictions over deepening ties with Taiwan.
Lithuania has made it clear that it considers such a manipulative Chinese policy to be contrary to our democratic values and a security challenge.
The case of Lithuania is a test for the entire democratic world of our ability to withstand economic coercion and to deter China from moving ahead with its red lines and from using coercion as a regular foreign policy tool to advance its goals. Enhanced coordination of actions with international allies, including in WTO, is needed to respond to economic coercion, find long-term systemic solutions, and send China that such coercive actions will not be tolerated.
Lithuania is not stepping back. On the contrary, engagement with democratic Taiwan is in our direct interest. China’s aggressive actions, including its threats to Taiwan, more than ever before, may have a direct impact on European security.
We thank the U.S. for its strong support to Lithuania in the face of China’s pressure, including in offsetting the effects of China’s economic coercion. In addition, we call on the United States to lead the efforts to encourage our common Allies to take a more resolute stance against China’s intimidations.
Mr Chairman, thank you once again for giving me the opportunity to address this distinguished group of U.S. Congressmen; and I very much look forward to my colleagues’ statements and follow-on discussions.