Lt. Gen. Hodges to Lithuanians: you are not doing enough, but you are annoyed about German brigade

Benas Hodgesas
Lt. Gen. Hodges. DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

Lithuania is wasting a lot of time and energy complaining about Germany’s reluctance to deploy a full brigade in the country instead of taking responsible steps to strengthen defence and deterrence itself. For example, there is no training for reserve troops, the three Baltic countries have different armaments, and there is no coordination in procurement. The Rail Baltica railway is still incomplete, even though it is essential if the Allies are to bring in large quantities of heavy equipment, Eglė Samoškaitė is writing at the news portal.

This was the criticism of Lithuania by the former Commander of the US Forces in Europe, retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who on Friday participated in the Vilnius Security Forum, which focused on the theme of Unified Deterrence. He is currently a Senior Adviser at Human Rights First.

“Lithuania is, of course, one of the countries that almost increased its defence budget from the beginning to 2%, but now we realise that 2% is no longer enough. The question is whether Lithuania is ready to defend itself at all. I would have to say no. Even if a German division existed here, that is not the most important thing. What is important is what you are doing in Lithuania to strengthen your defence”, says B. Hodges.

Lithuania currently spends 2.52% of its gross domestic product on defence.

The US retired Lieutenant General says that everyone knows Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, that if one Alliance country is attacked, the whole Alliance is attacked. Still, no one repeats Article 3, which is based on the idea that each country must be prepared to defend itself and help defend its allies.

“So I should ask. It is a pity that there are no Members of Parliament here because I would like to ask them how we are getting on with Poland? I would have to say not very well. Poland is a big, strong neighbour to the south. And when it comes to protecting the Suwałki corridor, you will not be satisfied with the Riflemen’s Union alone; you will need to integrate with the Poles, and you will also need to integrate a German combat unit and an American battalion into the defence. I think this is something for the National Security and Defence Committee to discuss,” said Lt. Gen. Hodges.

Even Rail Baltica is not finished

B. Hodges mentioned that he has been visiting Lithuania for ten years, and he does not really feel that there is a sense of urgency to increase the civic resilience of the society, which correlates with the will to defend. According to the officer, this is precisely the feeling he gets when he visits Finland, where the threat is really taken very seriously.

“I just don’t feel it. I would bet that probably not even 5% of people in Lithuania have prepared their homes for the worst. What preparations have been made? I think about 120 000 reservists in Lithuania are on some kind of list and have never been called up for training. They are on that list, but a part of the defence has not been dealt with. Let us say I am wrong. Let us halve the numbers, perhaps there are 60 000 reservists, but here we are talking about some 12 brigades. And you want German troops to come here, with so many brigades themselves. The political authorities need to think about that. Military mobility. The ability to move as fast as possible, faster than the forces of the Russian Federation. How long have we been working on the RailBaltica project? It is still a work in progress. It is really incredible. This is the infrastructure that will help bring tanks to the Baltic States, tanks, but also heavy ammunition. And this railway is still not finished,” Lt. Gen. Hodges marvelled.

In 2022, the active reserve of the Lithuanian Armed Forces consisted of 26,000 soldiers, and the ready reserve of the Lithuanian Armed Forces consisted of 106,000. The Ready Reserve of the Lithuanian Armed Forces consists of all Lithuanian citizens up to the age of 60 who have completed their military readiness and active military service.

The Lithuanian Ministry of National Defence aims to have an active reserve of 36,000 by 2025 and a ready reserve of closer to 120,000.

“Finally, I have never understood… Well, I understand, but it still makes me nervous. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania do not have almost the same armaments. You cannot use each other’s armaments. How can three countries the size of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania… You cannot afford to have three different kinds of howitzers or three different kinds of heavy vehicles. I am not against the deployment of a German brigade. When the Germans show up, you can be sure it will be fine, but before you get angry about where that promised German brigade is, you could work on the six ideas I have put forward,” remarked the former Commander of the US Forces in Europe.

He had remarks for Ukraine: 8 years wasted

Lt. Gen. Hodges also had remarks for the West and Ukraine itself. He said Russia has relied on the assumption that the West will do nothing because the West did nothing when the Russians attacked Georgia in 2008, did nothing when the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014, and did nothing when Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against its own citizens. According to Hodges, the Kremlin was quite logical in thinking that the West would not react this time either, even though this was a strategic mistake on Russia’s part.

“I am very clear in my support for giving Ukraine as much help as possible. I admire them and would do anything to get the world to help them as much as possible, but Ukraine wasted eight years. Where was all the munitions production that was supposed to happen after 2014? Instead of crying every day that the West is a coward and not helping enough, let us be honest: you have wasted eight years that could have been used for production. There is a famous factory in Kharkiv. I am a history buff and wanted to see this tank factory in 2017. It was the birthplace of the T-34, the most famous tank in history. I went there, and it was really impressive. I mean, it is an old-style industrial production, but it is still impressive. People were working on the tanks, repairing them. And then I noticed a row of brand-new tanks, and they even smelled new. I asked the manager if they were going to the anti-terrorist operation area. That was the name of the Donbas. I was told: no, no, no, they are being exported to Thailand. What? You ask for javelinas, and we export top-quality tanks to Thailand?” Lt. Gen. Hodges could not forget.

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