New Lithuanian National Security Strategy

By Vadim Volovoj, expert of the Centre for Geopolitical Studies

On 26 June the Lithuanian Seimas approved draft National Security Strategy. “This is a much more realistic Strategy: the evaluation of Lithuania’s security environment in the current Strategy is rather “euphoric”, whereas in the new draft this evaluation is more careful", said Rasa Juknevičienė, the minister of national defense while presenting a draft Strategy to the Seimas.

Indeed, the document has a number of advantages. Although it couldn’t avoid standard irrelevant phrases, yet it contains a clearly defined wide spectrum of actual threats, e.g. global crisis, challenges of cyber and information security etc.

Nonetheless, according to the author of the article, the Strategy contains several disputable moments. It says: “Primary interests are the interests that if not protected, could eventually affect the vital interests of the Republicof Lithuania. Primary interests are the following: (…) 8.2 democracy, freedom, respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the neighboring regions.” Besides, “non-transparent and non-democratic integration projects not based on a free will of citizen of the neighboring space” are mentioned among the external risk factors, threats and dangers. Whereas “development of the regional nuclear strategy which doesn’t comply with the international nuclear energy security standards during the design, building and operation of nuclear energy objects, and doesn’t include an extensive environmental impact assessment” is among the risk factors and threats which should be given a special attention.

The above statements about the neighboring countries are nothing but an indirect interference into their local affairs, but more surprising is the unwillingness of the authors of the document to call things by their right names. According to political scientist Tomas Janeliūnas, “our new Strategy is better than the Estonian, but worse than the British. The Strategy of Great Britain is more specific”. In other words, one of the threats to Lithuania is non-democratic Russia, Belarus and their Eurasian Union, as well as nuclear power plants constructed close to Lithuanian borders the security of which (according to Lithuania) is most doubtful.

Secondly, the Strategy once again highlights strategic partnership with the United States and the importance of the relationship with Poland and Northern countries. Among the first countries in the document are Latvia and Estonia, then the United States, Northern countries and finally Poland. Such a sequence looks strange, since Poland should be at least in the second place; yet the priority is given to Northern countries. President of Lithuania likes speaking about the partnership with the above countries, but in reality the content of this partnership is not impressive.

The situation becomes even more complicated while reading that Lithuania “will seek full integration of ethnic communities into the country’s life, education system and labor market, including improvement of their national language skills and promotion of a more extensive use of the language in public life”. But the absolute majority in the country is Lithuanians; however, state officials keep repeating that Lithuaniadoesn’t have any problems with ethnic minorities. It means that the problems do exist, and the first coming to mind are the Poles. Thus, these nice statements incur additional threat to the relations with Warsaw.

Thirdly, the paragraph dealing with the assurance of energy security also sounds interesting. It says: “To ensure sustainable energy supply, the Republic of Lithuaniashould reduce the dependence of national energy systems on the monopolistic external energy supplier and create conditions for diversification and competition of energy resources. In view of this, the Republic of Lithuania will:
Pursue integration of national energy systems in the EU energy systems and single European energy market;
Modernize energy infrastructure, renovate buildings and implement other measures of energy effectiveness (efficient energy use);
Promote the use of domestic and renewable energy sources;
Develop nuclear energy.”

It should be noted that development of nuclear energy goes after promotion of the use of domestic and renewable energy sources. Whereas in practice the situation is opposite: still undefined Visaginas NPP project is given priority and renewable energy sources are ignored.  In other words, priorities in the new Strategy are set right, and it would be nice if our politicians followed the document.

Fourthly, certain aspects in the Strategy on military security sound really strange. For instance, it says that Lithuania “will strengthen military capabilities (especially the capabilities of ground forces), including formation of the reserve of the armed forces prepared for armed national defense (independently and together with the allies) and participation in the international operations.” Actually, for Lithuania there is no need to form the reserve of armed forces. The reserve is necessary in case of an independent defense, besides, its costs are huge. According to Commander of Lithuanian Armed Forces General Arvydas Pocius, in order to defend the country it is necessary to ensure adequate mobilization reserve; besides training of soldiers may also incur high costs. It is obvious that Lithuania could defend only together with the allies, and in case of war the country would have enough capacity to accept their armed forces. Thus, development of the military reserve as a strategic goal seems disputable. The words on strengthening the military force also sound controversial: in case of ground troops they seem to have certain meaning, yet the words “focus will be given to the development of airspace surveillance and defense” sound ridiculous (the same could be said about the sea forces). This provision should be specified by indicating that capabilities will be strengthened in accordance with possibilities and/or together with NATO partners.

Finally the words that Lithuania ”will implement public information policy protecting from a negative impact of information directed against the state and its citizens” sound suspicious. When a state seeks “to protect” its citizens from something, this protection might result in the restrictions of civil rights. Everybody knows that Russian propaganda is active in Lithuaniaand the main of objective of response to this is effective competition, not prohibitions. This measure requires more efforts and more investment, but it is an effective measure.

Thus a new Strategy is not as bad as it might seem from the above considerations. It includes a number of right and conceptual aspects, but it cannot be ideal for everybody.