C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 VILNIUS 001546
STATE FOR EUR/NB, EUR/RUS, EUR/RPM, AND PM
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/21/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR MOPS MASS LH
SUBJECT: NEW LITHUANIAN DEFMIN COMMITS TO CONTINUED SUPPORT
FOR U.S. OBJECTIVES
REF: A. VILNIUS 1492
Â¶B. VILNIUS 1380
Â¶C. VILNIUS 1350
Classified By: POL/ECON OFFICER TREVOR BOYD
FOR REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)
Â¶1. (U) This cable contains two action requests. Please see
Â¶2. (C) Summary. New Lithuanian Defense Minister Gediminas
Kirkilas told the Ambassador that Lithuania would remain
engaged in Afghanistan and Iraq during a December 21 tour
d'horizon of our bilateral military-military relationship.
A solid proponent of a strong USG-GOL relationship,
Kirkilas's comments tracked with U.S. views on other key
issues including Baltic air policing, ESDP, and Lithuanian
interest in participating in a PRT in Afghanistan. A long-
time MP, Kirkilas will focus more on the politics of his
new position than did his predecessor. He will need time
to get up to speed on the details of the more technical
military issues. End Summary.
Â¶3. (C) Kirkilas welcomed the Ambassador and the Embassy's
pol-mil team at his first meeting with a foreign Ambassador
since taking office December 14. The Ambassador and DefMin
reviewed all aspects of our bilateral relationship with
major issues highlighted below.
Â¶4. (C) The Ambassador noted to Kirkilas that the Embassy
has had a traditionally active relationship with the
Defense Ministry and that we look forward to deepening that
relationship with Kirkilas on the job, particularly through
a visit to the U.S. early in his tenure. Kirkilas said he
would eagerly welcome such an opportunity.
Â¶5. (C) Kirkilas affirmed Lithuania's continued
participation in military operations in Iraq, and said that
his staff is examining how it might be able to even
increase its participation, resources permitting. He
referred to increasing pressure in Poland for a Polish
withdrawal, and expressed confidence that Lithuania would
face no such pressures in the immediate future. The
Ambassador thanked Kirkilas for the commitment, in
particular for Lithuania's early and positive response to
support NATO's training mission in Iraq. He noted that the
Embassy is committed to help the government maintain
popular support for its participation, including through
its recently launched biweekly newsletter on developments
in Iraq, which we send to political and opinion leaders.
Additionally, the Ambassador urged that Kirkilas consider
an early visit to Lithuanian troops on the ground in Iraq
(and Afghanistan) to acquaint himself personally with
coalition operations. He expressed an interest to do so.
Â¶6. (C) The Ambassador commended the performance of
Lithuanian special forces in Afghanistan, who just departed
to return to Lithuania to train for participation in the
NATO Reaction Force. While we understood the need to
withdraw, the Ambassador urged that Lithuania keep its
commitment to return in 2006.
Â¶7. (C) Kirkilas said the GOL is interested in participating
in a PRT in Afghanistan, but has concerns about the cost of
such an undertaking. The Ambassador recommended that
Lithuania continue to take a leadership role and recommend
to its Baltic neighbors that they pool their resources for
a single Baltic-PRT. We observed that the cost of the
initiative depended upon the goals of the mission and
agreed to share information about cost estimates. (Note:
The Lithuanians are under the impression that the start up
and one-year operating costs would be about 40 million
euros.) Kirkilas also thought the January 25 deadline for
declaring intention to mount a PRT posed a problem.
Kirkilas said that a Lithuanian government team would
likely visit Afghanistan in January with support from the
U.K. in order to explore PRT participation options.
Bilateral Assistance and Procurement
Â¶8. (C) The Ambassador said that the USG military assistance
to Lithuania should remain level and is expected to provide
approximately $5 million in FMF assistance and $1.2 million
IMET funding to Lithuania in 2005. Highlighting the recent
GOL purchase of Javelin missiles, the Ambassador pledged
continued assistance in GOL efforts to procure other
equipment including radios and night vision goggles for
troops deployed abroad. The Ambassador also assured
Kirkilas of continued support in providing opportunities
for members of Lithuania's armed forces to study in U.S.
service academies, praising the success of the twelve
students now enrolled.
Baltic Air-Policing and Russia
Â¶9. (C) The Ambassador affirmed U.S. support for NATO's air-
policing operations covering the Baltic States and noted
likely U.S. participation in the mission in 2005. He also
commended Lithuania's constructive approach in cooperating
with Russia's Vienna Documents (VDOC) inspection of
military sites including the Zokniai airfield, in October
(ref C). Lithuania's constructive approach to Russia had
enhanced regional security in the past, noted the
Ambassador, and we strongly encourage the continuation of
such a policy.
Two Percent GDP Allocation
Â¶10. (C) The Ambassador strongly encouraged the GOL to
fulfill NATO's recommendations to allocate two percent of
GDP for national defense. The Ambassador applauded
Kirkilas's public statements in support of the allocation,
and remarked that NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer
had recently raised the issue with President Adamkus.
Concurring that the two percent issue is very important,
Kirkilas said he would work to "find new decisions" on the
issue (reftel B). Kirkilas conceded that some involved in
the budgetary process were not sensitive to the realities
of the defense budget or of the need for Lithuania to
continue force transformation following NATO membership.
Â¶11. (C) The Ambassador noted the USG support for European
security and defense, but cautioned that ESDP neither
duplicate NATO nor diminish the capacity of NATO members to
meet NATO commitments. Kirkilas concurred that NATO must
remain the primary guarantor of security in Europe.
Kirkilas said that Lithuania was not facing significant
pressure from Europe to pledge more defense assets to ESDP.
Â¶12. (C) Kirkilas described engagement with and support for
the South Caucasus as a high GOL and MOD priority, and
noted that the GOL had pledged assistance in Georgia's
preparations for a bid for NATO membership. He said that
Georgia approached the GOL seeking a transfer of Soviet
weapons to Georgian defense forces, and raised a GOG
request to the GOL to transfer 1,000-2,000 U.S. M-14 rifles
to Georgia's national honor guard forces, and that the GOL
now sought USG approval of the transfer. The Ambassador
welcomed Lithuania's engagement with Georgia and encouraged
Kirkilas in his contacts with the Georgian leadership to
discourage any new military action in South Ossetia, which
would impede solution of the problem and endanger Georgia's
Â¶13. (C) Action Requests.
Â¶A. We request that the Department provide guidance on the
GOL transfer of 1,000-2,000 M-14s to the GOG.
Â¶B. We request information on the possibility of Lithuania
postponing past January 25, 2005 a declaration of its
intentions regarding participation in a PRT.
Â¶14. (C) It is clear that Kirkilas will need time to come up
to speed on military issues. His political background,
familiarity with the intricacies of Lithuania's Coalition
government, and leadership role within his party and
parliament (he remains a MP and the Social Democratic
Party's Deputy Whip) may serve the MOD well during
contentious budgetary battles. We will continue to
actively engage Kirkilas on issues of interest, and
recommend that we create opportunities for travel to the
U.S. as well as to Iraq and Afghanistan to help him become
familiar with the issues as quickly as possible.