Cablegate: U.S.-Lithuania Bilateral Working Group Discusses


DE RUEHVL #0682/01 2001321
R 191321Z JUL 06





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: A. IIR 6 938 0033 06 B. VILNIUS 437

1. (SBU) Summary: During the annual Bilateral Working Group
(BWG) meetings between the USG and Lithuania, Latvia and
Estonia in Vilnius July 12-13, all three Baltic delegations
carried a unified message on Baltic cooperation and Baltic
air policing. In both the multilateral and bilateral fora,
Lithuanian Ministry of Defense officials expressed broad
support for U.S. positions on the transformation of NATO and
outlined their plans for defense reforms tracking with NATO's
priorities. Lithuanian officials discussed the maintenance
of their missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and addressed the
Lithuanian Defense Ministry's efforts to engage Lithuania's
"neighborhood" countries, particularly non-NATO countries in
the former Soviet space. End Summary.

Baltics bring unified message on air policing

2. (SBU) During the multilateral session, the Lithuanian,
Latvian and Estonian delegations presented a unified message
on air policing of the Baltic republics. Currently, NATO
provides full-time airspace coverage for Lithuania, Latvia,
and Estonia through the rotational deployment of interceptor
aircraft to Zokniai Airbase near Siauliai, Lithuania. The
three delegations met the day before, July 11, to discuss a
common approach and timeline for an exit strategy for NATO
air policing in light of the uncertainty of the NATO Baltic
Air Policing mission after 2007. Lithuania is looking at
possibilities for working with Latvia and Estonia in the
interim period until the armed forces will be able to provide
their own air defense coverage (ref A).

Baltic cooperation: the way ahead

3. (SBU) The coordination of the three Baltic delegations on
July 11, the night before the BWG, was an encouraging sign
that the governments involved understand the benefits of
working together and forming, when possible, common positionsMQeWQorts MAP for
Ukraine even if Yanukovich becomes PM, Latvia no).
Nonetheless, their approach was clearly coordinated and the
sides seemed well aware of where their differences and common
interests lie.

4. (SBU) The three states presented concrete success stories
of their cooperation. The Baltic Defense College (BDC)
continues to thrive and was accredited by the United States
as an intermediate professional military education
institution (a notable result of the 2005 BWG). There has
been some progress in common procurement and SOF cooperation,
such as the Shamrock Key military exercise in April 2006.
The Annual Baltic Conference on Defense (ABCD) has become a
useful gathering and exchange of information, they said, and
will convene again in September. Lithuania mentioned the
Baltic initiative to create a Junior Naval Staff Officer
Course and asked for U.S. assistance to provide specialists
and instructors.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
NATO-EU relations -- more complicated for smaller states
--------------------------------------------- ------------

5. (SBU) The Baltic delegations all claimed that NATO and
the EU are seemingly competing for the same defense
resources, which negatively affects modernization and
transformation efforts of small nations that are members of
both organizations. The U.S. delegation encouraged the
Baltic states to cooperate to push hard for NATO-EU
harmonization during the upcoming Finnish EU Presidency.

--------------------------------------------- -----
Lithuania supports MAP for Ukraine, ID for Georgia
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) As on all NATO transformation issues, Lithuania
reiterated its strong support for NATO expansion. Lithuania
argued specifically that Ukraine should be given a Membership
Action Plan if it shows the slightest progress. The
Lithuanian head of delegation called for some sort of
statement of support for Ukraine and Georgia at the Riga
summit if NATO cannot reach consensus on an Intensified

Dialogue for Georgia and a MAP for Ukraine. Lithuania also
said that the USG and other allies should work to convince
remaining NATO skeptics about the benefits of enlargement.

--------------------------------------------- -
Political support on METI, Global Partnerships
--------------------------------------------- -

7. (SBU) On the Middle East Training Initiative, Lithuania
offered its political support in principle, but was not
interested in direct participation. On Global partnerships,
the Lithuanian delegation agreed with those from Latvia and
Estonia that partnerships should be offered only to
democratic countries, rather than to any country that can
provide contingency forces.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
Lithuania considering NRF participation, airlift initiative
--------------------------------------------- --------------

8. (SBU) Lithuania remained forward looking on NATO
operational initiatives and showed a willingness to work with
its Baltic neighbors in these respects. Lithuania expressed
interest in working with the Danes and the other three
Baltics in NATO Response Force 14.

9. (SBU) Lithuania announced that it will soon meet to
consider the Strategic Airlift initiative, a proposal to pool
small countries to "buy" flight hours in a small fleet of
C-17 aircraft. Saulius Gasiunas, Director of the Defense
Ministry's NATO/EU Department, expressed support for this on
political more than practical grounds, adding that commonly
owned NATO resources make allies more interdependent on each
other. Practically, he said that Lithuania is in a different
position than its neighbors because it occasionally needs
C-17s to transport supplies and equipment to Afghanistan.

10. (SBU) Lithuania supports developing NATO's Special
Operations Forces (SOF) capabilities, either by establishing
common standards, training, and doctrine for NATO SOF or by
creating a standing SOF headquarters. Gasiunas stated that
Lithuania's Defense MinistrQQm.3v-

11. (SBU) Lithuania noted that NATO's common funding program
presents many requirements and few resources for the Baltic
states. They argued that common funds were too often used
politically. Gasiunas observed that there seems to be a
double standard for NATO common funding. As an example, he
mentioned that Poland is using common funding for radars
while Lithuania has to use national funds for its radar
upgrades. Without addressing the Polish example, the USG
reinforced Lithuania's understanding that common funding is
not a panacea for limited resources, and that nations need to
first reach the NATO floor of two percent defense spending as
a function of GDP before looking to NATO for funds.

--------------------------------------------- --------
Lithuania outlines defense reforms to meet NATO goals
--------------------------------------------- --------

12. (SBU) Lithuania presented its long-term defense
development plan. This presentation outlined the transition
from territorial defense to collective security and
highlighted development milestones for the armed forces until
2014. Defense Ministry officials outlined three budgetary
guidelines: personnel costs should be below 50% of the total
defense budget; operational deployment costs should be below
10% of the budget; and procurement costs should exceed 25%
of the budget. Lithuania anticipates that Provincial
Reconstruction Team costs are likely to put operational
deployment costs well over 10%, which is likely to strain its
procurement goals. Lithuania's stated operational goals are
to be able to generate one deployable and sustainable
battalion task group ready by 2014, expanded SOF
capabilities, and combat support and combat service support

13. (SBU) Lithuania reiterated that its number-one military
priority was the maintenance of the Provincial Reconstruction
Team in Afghanistan. Ministry of Defense officials spoke
positively about operations in Afghanistan, emphasizing the
stable security environment and Lithuania's efforts to
support security sector reforms. The Lithuanians sought

advice and assistance from the USG in determining expected
costs to inform their decisions on how best logistically to
support the PRT. Ministry of Defense officials are
considering the continuation of the current contractor,
Kellogg, Brown and Root, or the use of another (perhaps
Lithuanian) military logistics contractor. The U.S.
delegation counseled the Lithuanians to make a decision
quickly and initiate necessary contracting procedures before
U.S. funding ends at the end of 2006. The Lithuanian
delegation also requested the return of U.S. police mentors
to the PRT's civilian component who had been working with the
PRT until February 2006 (Ref B).

--------------------------------------------- -
Lithuania links neighborhood policy to Defense
--------------------------------------------- -

14. (SBU) Lithuania included agenda HQ\Q?Zo;mdls while abstaining from
high-level contacts. Consistent with the approach of other
ministries, Lithuania's Defense Ministry feels that an
isolation policy is not effective when dealing with its
neighbor. Vilnius would like to see more, at least
low-level, NATO interaction with Belarus. The head of the
MOD's International Relations Department, Alvydas Kunigelis,
reported that Minsk has identified 15 officers who could
participate in Peace Support Operations.

15. (SBU) Because the U.S. side felt that coQF([`Q+$eS. delegation
offered to arrange a State Department briefing for Ministry
officials in the future.


16. (SBU) The willingness of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia
to coordinate on points of common interest set the tone for
this year's Bilateral Working Group, demonstrating that the
Baltic states are capable of rising above their sibling
rivalries to work together when it is clearly in their mutual
interest. Nonetheless, some differences remain, particularly
with regard to combined efforts for operational deployments.
From this end, we will encourage them to continue such
coordination, which could make them a more effective force
within NATO and EU structures, where they generally support
U.S. positions.

© Scoop Media

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