President Grybauskaitė, it is great to be back in Lithuania. On behalf of the North Atlantic Council, I thank you for your warm welcome. And for Lithuania's strong commitment to this Alliance and as a resident of Brussels, let me also thank you for the solidarity you have expressed today.
Next week will mark twelve years since Lithuania joined NATO, alongside your Baltic neighbours and four other Allies. And in this relatively short time, you have made major contributions to our shared security.
Lithuanian troops help build security in Afghanistan and Kosovo. You host the Energy Security Centre of Excellence here in Vilnius. And your commitment to boost defence spending in the years ahead shows great leadership.
You also boost the Alliance's defence and deterrence by hosting a NATO Force Integration Unit.
This small headquarters that were one of the decisions taken at the Wales Summit.
This small headquarters links Lithuanian and multinational Allied forces. It will help us deploy quickly for exercises, or in response to real threats, if that becomes necessary.
This is part of the Alliance's adaptation to a new and more challenging security environment.
Here in Vilnius, the North Atlantic Council is assessing how far we have come, and what more we need to do. Looking to the Warsaw Summit in July, and beyond. And we have discussed in-depth some of the key issues for Warsaw, including the question of enhancing the forward presence together with more effective capacity for reinforcements.
This afternoon, we will visit the Military Training Area at Rukla. Where Lithuanians and Americans are training side-by-side. And German troops will rotate in next month.
This is a concrete example of Europe and North America standing strong together. And demonstrating a trans-Atlantic commitment to Lithuania's security.
Twenty-six years ago this month, Lithuania declared its independence from the Soviet Union.
Today, Lithuania is in NATO, and NATO is in Lithuania.
And together, we are committed to ensuring you will never lose your freedom again.
Thank you very much and I look forward to your questions.
Q: Mr. Vershbow, yesterday Russian foreign minister called to unite efforts to fight terrorism, and what he called geopolitical games. Do you think that after Brussels attacks the cooperation between NATO and Russia could change in some way?
A: Well I think all of our nations would like to cooperate more with Russia against terrorism, but there is a number of questions. First of all, we have been asking that ourselves ever since Russia’s intervention in Syria, whether Russia is really committed fighting the same enemies that we are, because it seemed to us that the objective of Russia’s intervention was more to support the Assad regime than to go after Daesh. But clearly Russia itself faces threats of terrorism from within, in the north Caucasus in particular, so I hope that the diplomatic contacts underway can bring our positions closer together. But Russia also poses this question as if we should cooperate against terrorism and end our measures that have been taken in response to their aggression against Ukraine. We are not going to make any kind of tradeoff. Russia has undermined the basic principles of the European security system with this aggression. And even if we could collaborate more against terrorism, we are not going to abandon our firm response to that aggression and the illegal annexation of Crimea in particular.
Q: [rough translation from Lithuanian]: Is NATO not too passive in reaction to terrorism?
A: Clearly we need to do more in light of the tragic attacks yesterday but also there are other recent attacks in the United States and in Europe. The coalition is trying to degrade and destroy ISIL at its source in the Middle East. Clearly we have our ways to go and everything needs to be stepped up there and all the allies are contributing in one way or another to that coalition. But we also have to strengthen our collaboration on our law enforcement agencies and intelligence services, so we can track down and stop the terrorist networks in our own countries from carrying out further attacks of the kind that hit Brussels this week.
NATO isn’t always a responder when it comes to terrorism, but I think there is ways that we can support the efforts of the European Union and our member states. We can do more to be a facilitator of intelligence sharing on terrorist threats. We can also be part of the international effort to go to the root causes of the terrorist threats, both in our own countries but also in our neighborhood, by helping countries that are facing radicalization, facing instability, prompted by terrorist networks, to build their capacity to fight these enemies within their own countries. That’s one thing that I hope will be an important area of decision making for the Warsaw Summit. For NATO to step up its efforts in defense capacity building for our neighbors, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, so that they can be better equipped to fight the spread of terrorism on NATO’s doorstep.
Q – (inaudible) - LATVIAN PUBLIC TELEVISION - Does NATO have plans to improve strategic communication in the meaning of defense of informational space?
A: We certainly have taken the strategic communications challenge very seriously. The effects of Russian propaganda and disinformation was something we discussed here today especially with Foreign Minister Linkevičius, and clearly we have very much value the work of the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence in Riga. But NATO is already seriously engaged in this effort. We put out many bits of information trying to debunk the Russian narrative about Ukraine, about the whole history of NATO-Russia relations of the last 25 years. We are working closer with the European Union, which is stepping up its strategic communications efforts as well with the establishment of the East STRATCOM office downtown. Clearly, information is one of the important tools of hybrid warfare that we need to do better to equip ourselves to defeat and to prevent it from having destabilizing effects on our own countries and on some of the countries in between NATO and Russia. So yes, indeed, strategic communications has to be a very high priority for the Alliance in the period ahead.
Q: Deputy Secretary General we heard that you briefly mentioned about missile defense and the idea that the air defense which the Baltic States need to improve. How can NATO contribute, how can allies contribute in this areas?
A: First of all as we look at our future defense and deterrence posture, it is indeed very important what each of the member countries can do for themselves to strengthen their home defense forces, their own resilience against hybrid and cyber attacks, and so I think working with the NATO defense planers to determine what are the best ways that countries like Lithuania can contribute to their own defense but also to the integrated air and missile defense capabilities of the alliance.
This is something that can also benefit from closer collaboration with individual members of the alliance who may be able to work with Lithuania and other countries to help them acquire in a more efficient way, the necessary capabilities to strengthen their home defense forces. So these are things that are very much subject to that active work within the Alliance.