High-level diplomats from the US and Russia began important talks in Geneva over the continuing threat of a military offensive on Ukraine’s borders. At the same time, a meeting of the National Defence Council (NDC), convened by President Gitanas Nausėda, took place in Lithuania to discuss strengthening the country’s security through national means and international formats, Agnė Černiauskaitė reported in lrytas.lt.
“The most important objectives today are to prevent, to deter the worst-case scenario. Unfortunately, against this backdrop, we see rising threats and tensions, the further build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine‘s borders, the public threat of military intervention. Against this backdrop, it is crucial to assess not only the security situation in the region but also in our own security situation,” said Darius Kuliešius, Advisor to the President.
For this reason, the NDC decided on Monday that air defence systems should be procured earlier than planned.
“At a time of growing threats and tensions in the region, decisions on strengthening Lithuania’s security are important. It was agreed to move ahead with plans to acquire air defence systems together with the neighbouring Baltic States. Air defence solutions are one of Lithuania’s priorities,” the Presidential Adviser said.
These systems will significantly strengthen the power of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, he said. The NDC members also discussed concrete actions on where, when and how the readiness of the country’s Armed Forces will be strengthened.
“It is necessary to assess the national mobilisation plan objectively, to organise training and exercises, and to continue the mobilisation of resources and the readiness of all the institutions operating in the mobilisation system. The members of the NDC agreed on coordinated action in NATO, the EU, and international bilateral formats, with the aim of pursuing priority security measures for Lithuania,” said Mr Kuliešius.
Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas stated that the acquisition of air defence systems is planned by 2026.
Increasing the number of conscripts
According to Anušauskas, in the face of threats in the East, a principled plan for the army’s structure has been approved, which will introduce a number of changes.
“At this meeting, the principal plan for the structure of the Armed Forces for the coming years was approved. There will be some changes in titles and an increase in the number of conscripts, as well as in the number of civilian staff and cadets at the military academy,” the Minister stated.
It was decided that from 2023 onwards, 4,400 young people would be called up for nine months of compulsory initial military service. Currently, 3.8 thousand are conscripted.
The Minister of National Defence stressed that even if the Seimas were to approve the decision to introduce universal conscription, the demographic situation would not radically increase the number of conscripts.
The Ministry of Defence has prepared a feasibility study examining two alternatives to universal conscription: to call only 18-19-year-olds or to call girls as well. Depending on whether the decision is taken last year, universal conscription could be introduced in 2027 or 2029, which would require an investment of hundreds of millions of euros.
If only boys are conscripted, 6,100 young men would be conscripted each year, and 11,900 if girls were also conscripted.
A plan to support Ukraine
According to Anušauskas, the NDC meeting also approved a plan to support Ukraine.
“Given the serious security challenges Ukraine is facing, we have planned to support Ukraine with real practical measures, including increasing the number of instructors of our military training mission and transferring certain material assistance,” he said.
Lithuania will soon hand over thermal surveillance equipment to Ukraine, and a draft government decision is being prepared.
The Minister pointed out that “the Government is committed to transferring at least one million euros of the necessary equipment every year”.
Western countries are concerned about the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s borders and accuse Moscow of planning to invade its neighbour this winter. According to the West, up to 100,000 Russian troops are massed on the Ukrainian border.
The US and Russia opened talks between senior diplomats in Geneva on Monday. The West pressed Russia to withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s borders and Moscow demanding wide-ranging security guarantees.
Russian representatives will also meet NATO and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) officials this week.
Western countries warn that they would impose sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine. In addition, US officials indicate that in the event of aggression, Washington would send more troops to eastern NATO members, including Poland and the Baltic States.
The NDC is composed of the head of state, the Prime Minister, the Parliament Speaker, the Minister of Defence and the Army Chief. The President chairs the Council.