In her address to a line-up of Lithuanian and Allied forces in the Cathedral Square in Vilnius at noon, President Dalia Grybauskaitė said Lithuania currently had “bigger security guarantees than ever before.”
“Our army is growing stronger with every year, changing along with Lithuania (…). Solidarity of NATO Allies gives us confidence,” said the president.
During the event in the Cathedral Square, troops of the Guard of Honor fired salvos and held a parade along the central Gedimino Avenue.
Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Lithuania nearly doubled its defense budget, with plans to continue raising it in the future. US troops arrived in Lithuania with their equipment, and an international battalion formed by Germany should be stationed in the Baltic state next year.
Acting Defence Minister Juozas Olekas sa id that Lithuania’s Armed Forces “have entered a new level of quality, as in the past few years it has been enhanced, modernized, completed and had service conditions of troops improved.”
Chief of Defence Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas said that additional NATO capacities in Lithuania were the result of “highly serious security processes taking place both worldwide and in our closest neighborhood.”
“Challenges to Lithuania’s security are not going anywhere. Forecasting their further development is a very difficult task, therefore, the army is faced with increasingly high requirements,” said the general.
Lithuania marks the Armed Forces Day on Nov. 23 to mark the issuing of a decree on organization of Lithuania’s Armed Forces on that day in 1918.
Lithuania’s new government has pledged to reach the NATO-prescribed 2 percent threshold of the gross domestic product (GDP) for defense in 2018.