Tough questions for politicians in charge of security: “We live in a rosy world”

Lithuanian Army DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

On July 26, during a meeting of the Seimas National Security and Defence Committee (NSDC), representatives of all parliamentary parties discussed how the institutions are managing to implement the previously agreed provisions on Lithuania’s security. However, due to important and sharp questions from the members of the Seimas, the meeting soon got heated, and the members of the NSGC agreed to discuss some of the topics during the next closed session, Indrė Naureckaitė is writing at the news portal.

Threats against the Public Security Service

On July 26, Wednesday, the NSGC held a discussion on the implementation of the provisions of the agreement on strengthening Lithuania’s national security and defence in the short term, signed by political parties last year.

However, Saulius Skvernelis, chairman of the Democratic Union Vardan Lietuvos (In the Name of Lithuania), pointed out during the meeting that if the ruling party decides to integrate the Public Security Service (PSS) into the police force, then his party will consider withdrawing from the agreement.

According to him, the ruling party is talking about the need to strengthen the country’s defence while doing the opposite.

“I would certainly agree with the Minister of National Defence’s reactions to the appearance of Wagner mercenaries in Belarus – that there is no need for diarrhoea. But this is the kind of bandit group that could theoretically cross the Lithuanian border.

And the main force that is supposed to fight such groups is the Public Security Service. Now, when the threats are rising, we see such a move from the Ministry of the Interior – the liquidation of this service, covering it in pink colours”, Skvernelis said.

Skvernelis assured that as long as the ruling party takes such decisions on the PSS, the Democrats will not see the need to sign any new agreement between the parties on the division.

“And if such potentially criminal activities against Lithuania’s security are implemented, we will consider, and I will propose to the party bodies to consider, a possible withdrawal from the parliamentary party agreement,” Skvernelis said.

At the same time, Deputy Interior Minister Vitalij Dmitrijev stressed that the issue would still be discussed by the Seimas and that the parliamentarians would have the last word on the matter.

“Our vision is that it is necessary to strengthen the performance of certain functions of this service. We are not abolishing or liquidating this service, we are only proposing to change the subordination of the service from a service under the Ministry of the Interior to a specialised body within the police system”, he stressed.

According to him, one of the functions proposed to be strengthened is participation in armed defence.

Last year, the parliamentary parties signed a national agreement on security policy (LVŽS in May this year). The document provides for three main areas of activity: strengthening the Lithuanian Armed Forces and international security and defence guarantees, preparing the state for armed defence and responding to hybrid attacks. The agreement is expected to last until 2030.

Preparing medics for a war scenario

For his part, Arvydas Pocius, a conservative and former army commander, asked during the meeting about the interaction of the Ministry of National Defence (MoND) with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in the event of an emergency situation or war.

“In the context of the war in Ukraine, when we talk about the number of fatalities, we do not talk much about the number of wounded. And usually, if there is one fatality, there are three to five wounded,” he pointed out.

The politician was interested in how the medical institutions under the authority of the Ministry of Defence would be integrated with the event of a transition to martial law and to what extent investments are being made in the capacity of the medical institutions to accommodate a large number of wounded persons.

“When I visit the Lazdynai Hospital in Vilnius, which would be the main hospital in the event of a natural disaster, I see that these questions are unanswered. Is anything being done?

Because in the winter alone, when it is bare, there are many injuries, the trauma wards are overloaded, and even in peacetime, the capacity is weak. How would it be in wartime?” asked A. Pocius.

Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas pointed out that in June, a joint exercise with Kaunas Clinics took place.

“The institutions of the SAM system need to have more specific plans. But at least what we have learnt from all the crisis situations is that the institutions have equipped themselves with independent energy sources. If there is no electricity, they would have a power supply. At least this has changed significantly in two years”, the Minister said.

Soldiers are also being provided with additional medical supplies, he said.

“We are paying great attention, in line with the lessons of the Ukrainian war, to providing the soldiers themselves with medical supplies, to helping themselves and their colleagues – to make sure that they have those supplies and that there are enough of them for the active reserve,” he said.

At the moment, Anušauskas said, all aspects of treatment are already entrusted to the Ministry of Health.

Demographic challenges

At the same time, Valdas Rakutis, a conservative and military historian, asked the Minister of National Defence whether Lithuania’s defence plans take into account Lithuania’s demographics.

“Has any attempt been made to calculate what impact the change in our demographic situation over the next 20 years will have on our defence capabilities?

We talk about increasing the size (of the army), but you have to look at the curves – we have a very strong population decline. Universities are talking about this, but I have not heard that national defence takes into account specific figures”, Rakutis said.

“The numbers of children born who have passed kindergarten are concrete, and the percentage of those leaving can also be calculated. We are living in a rosy world as if the population will increase, it will only decrease”, he added.

However, NSGK chairman Laurynas Kasčiūnas pointed out that this and other questions will be answered during a future closed session.

Remarks on the general call-up

Kęstutis Budrys, the President’s senior adviser, who was also present at the NSGK meeting, pointed out that Nausėda would like to see a general call-up also included in the current parties’ agreement on defence.

“The President has been quite firm – he is in favour of universal call-up. And we think that the efforts that are being made now to fix the gaps, they should be directed towards the development of a model for a universal call-up, with a view to determining when we will be able to implement it,” Budrys said.

“It is also a financial issue, and it is also a question of polygons. There are many, many things that need to be done in order to be ready,” he underlined.

Budrys stressed the goal of universal call-up and its inclusion in the parties’ agreement on defence.

“The President says that we need to move on (to include – ELTA) in the current agreement of the parliamentary parties this aspiration. And we will have to come back to that topic for different reasons: one is the general training for resistance, both armed and unarmed resistance, and the other is the filling of the army,” he underlined.

Although the Presidential Adviser assures that there is a desire to increase the number of professional, volunteer and reserve soldiers, he says that the process is not moving as fast as one would like.

“Those numbers are increasing too slowly or are not increasing at all in some categories. So with regard to recruitment, we also need to go back to universal call-up. We are stalling in some places,” Budrys said.

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