C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000054
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2018
TAGS: OVIP PGOV PINS MARR LH
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY GATES' VISIT TO LITHUANIA
Classified By: Ambassador Cloud for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
Â¶1. (C) Summary and Introduction: Welcome to Lithuania. Your
interaction with your hosts during the Informal Meeting of
NATO Defense Ministers comes at the right time, in the
perfect setting, to positively impact Lithuanian
contributions to the GWOT. As we broadly urge allies to
increase efforts in ISAF, you have an excellent opportunity
to highlight the Lithuanian example of active support
embodied in their PRT and SOF deployments in Afghanistan.
Your bilateral discussions should focus a politically
cautious Defense Minister on the need to continue and even
expand contributions in Afghanistan and to keep the door open
for future OIF commitments. You should expect that the
Lithuanians will inevitably raise a host of secondary topics
which are adequately addressed in other read-ahead materials.
While these issues deserve a brief hearing, they should not
be allowed to eclipse the hard discussion of troop
deployments. Upcoming parliamentary elections will tend to
distract the attention of the Lithuanian leadership from
their commitments abroad as they focus on domestic political
concerns. Your visit will help to keep our overwhelmingly
positive bilateral defense relationship productive and
on-track. End summary and introduction.
Â¶2. (C) As you know, Lithuania has been a staunch ally in both
Afghanistan and Iraq, and Lithuanian officials do not tire of
hearing our appreciation for this. Currently, Lithuania has
approximately 200 troops in Afghanistan; special forces are
operating in Zabul Province, and Lithuania runs a PRT in
Ghor. The GOL's commitment to the PRT is firm through 2010
and we believe the SOF deployment can be further developed to
provide ISAF uncaveated combat troops and training
capabilities in a tough neighborhood.
Â¶3. (C) We suggest that you urge Minister of Defense Juozas
Olekas to: expand the current SOF deployment from 55 to 75
troops; extend the current mission until summer 2009; and
enhance the mission profile of SOF to include training and
advising the ANA. The Lithuanian CHOD, Lieutenant General
Tutkus, prefers to develop existing deployments rather than
generate new ones. He is strongly opposed to creating an
OMLT but is amenable to the further development of the SOF
mission to include a training dimension. Olekas' present
inclination (in part based on political concerns) is to
curtail the SOF mission rather than expand it, but his
position has softened in the past week and we believe your
intervention may be decisive.
Â¶4. (C) The PRT has been Lithuania's flagship contribution to
the GWOT. They are rightfully proud of their leadership and
growing self-sufficiency as they have taken on the costs and
burdens of logistical support from the United States. Not
being content simply to raise the Lithuanian colors in Ghor,
the GOL is actively seeking international donors to augment
its own limited resources to sponsor development projects.
This remote region has been relatively secure, although
Olekas worries that without more visible development and
reconstruction progress the southern districts could become a
Taliban sanctuary. The GOL has asked for our assistance in
helping them present coherent strategic impact proposals to
potential donors, such as UAE. In particular they have
requested a United States Army Corps of Engineers survey to
scope the requirements for an East-West transportation
corridor linking Kabul and Herat through Ghor Province. You
should applaud the PRT and offer what assurances you can that
we will help the Lithuanians help themselves with information
and advice to initiate development projects.
Â¶5. (C) Iraq is another story. Lithuania currently has an
infantry platoon serving in Al Kut, five staff officers
working for MNF-I, and four trainers as part of NTM-I.
While the Lithuanians have served with us in Iraq since 2003,
it took considerable effort, including the intervention of
Deputy Secretary England and Deputy Secretary of State
Negroponte, to convince Olekas to re-commit combat troops
after th British and Danish reductions last summer. Olekas
has publicly stated that the platoon will return to Lithuania
after the current six-month rotation ends in May. We
consider future rotations after the Lithuanian parliamentary
elections in October unlikely. Trainers and staff officers
will remain and could be expanded.
Â¶6. (C) Olekas claims that public opinion in Lithuania is
turning against continued involvement in Iraq. We have not
seen this trend in any significant measure, but have no doubt
that casualties would quickly change the political landscape.
While our hopes are slim for future Iraq combat commitments,
we believe it important that you thank Olekas for Lithuania's
current deployment and remind him that there is still a need
and an open request for forces in OIF. Without offending
Lithuanian sensibilities about making "sovereign" decisions,
he needs to hear that a decision not to redeploy will not be
greeted warmly by Washington.
Â¶7. (C) You will also meet with President Valdas Adamkus.
Adamkus returned to Lithuania after spending most of his
adult life in the United States and rising to senior levels
in EPA. The President, while constitutionally charged with
supreme authority over the armed forces, has tried to stay
above the political fray on deployment issues in the past.
Nonetheless, he was instrumental in walking back some of
Olekas' earlier statements which could have precluded the
current Iraq deployment, and strongly supports close links
between Lithuania and the U.S. You should employ the same
themes in your meetings with both officials. It will be
especially effective for Olekas to hear these points twice;
the second time in the company of the head of state.