Viewing cable 06VILNIUS682

06VILNIUS6822006-07-19 13:21:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius

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. 
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NATO-EU relations -- more complicated for smaller states 
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¶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. 
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Lithuania supports MAP for Ukraine, ID for Georgia 
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¶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. 
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Political support on METI, Global Partnerships 
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¶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. 
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Lithuania considering NRF participation, airlift initiative 
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¶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. 
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Lithuania outlines defense reforms to meet NATO goals 
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¶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). 
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Lithuania links neighborhood policy to Defense 
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¶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.