The United States pledges military support to Lithuania but also calls on the Baltic country to increase defense funding which is now one of the lowest among NATO countries.
US Vice President Joe Biden said in Vilnius on Wednesday his country is considering sending American troops to ground and naval exercises in the Baltic states.
Following Biden’s visit, US Ambassador to Lithuania Deborah A. McCarthy said in an interview with BNS that the hosting country’s contribution was also important while discussing this issue.
“In our view, there are some elements that we are considering. But it is also important to underline what the host country is bringing, and this includes, obviously, further increases to the defense budget,” she told BNS.
Currently, Lithuania spends 0.8 percent of its GDP on defense, with only Luxembourg spending less among NATO countries.
The US ambassador also sees “a good indication” that Lithuania might consider increasing its contribution following the upcoming presidential elections and elections to the European Parliament in May, in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
“The sense, given recent events there, is more than an interest in looking, perhaps later after the elections, at seeing what can be plussed up, what they can bring to the table which I think was a good indication that was certainly brought out during the vice president’s visit,” McCarthy said, adding, however, that “obviously, no one expects miracles of being able to ratchet up greatly very rapidly.”
But, she said, NATO expects that Lithuania “makes the effort because it ranks just above Luxembourg right now.”
“I can’t give suggestions, that’s really up to the government. Given events and given it’s needs, it would only dictate that the figure has to go up,” the US ambassador said.
US Vice President Biden said in Vilnius on Wednesday that Washington is “exploring a number of additional steps to increase the pace and scope of our military cooperation, including rotating U.S. forces of the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercises, and training missions.”
“The question today is not what can America do for the Baltic nations; it is what can we do together,” Biden said.
Speaking after a meeting with the Lithuanian and Latvian presidents, he stressed that the US would respond to any aggression against NATO countries.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said after the meeting that Russia’s aggression in Crimea poses direct threat to Lithuania’s security.
Demonstrating solidarity with the Baltic states, the United States sent six additional F-15 fighter jets to Lithuania earlier this month to bolster the Baltic air policing mission.