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LITHUANIAN MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
INFORMATION AND PRESS DEPARTMENT

PRESENTATION BY VYGAUDAS USACKAS,
DEPUTY MINISTER, MFA OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA,

17 September 1999, 
HOSTED BY THE INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES
MINISTRY OF DEFENCE, REPUBLIC OF SLOVENIA
 

NATO'S OPEN DOOR POLICY - EXPECTATIONS AND PROSPECTS
 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to thank the distinguished host Institute for Strategic Studies of the Ministry of Defence, Republic of Slovenia for this invitation and providing me with an opportunity to address our Slovenian colleagues, as well as representatives of diplomatic corps in Ljubljana.

Addressing you I want to present Lithuania's view on NATO's 'open door' policy, to describe our expectations keeping in mind a forthcoming NATO review process, and to share with you the thoughts on the prospects of co-operation between our two countries.

At the 1997 Madrid Summit, and two years later, at the Washington Summit, leaders of the Alliance made it clear that the Alliance is on an irreversible path of changes. The invitation of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to NATO was the best illustration of that. In Washington the Alliance leaders also committed to NATO's openness by setting a target date - 2002 - for the next revision of the enlargement process and provided a solid mechanism - the Membership Action Plan - to assist  the applicants in preparations for eventual accession. We welcomed these decisions by strongly supporting the further continuation of  the openness of the Alliance.

Washington's Summit decisions have marked the direction for the future of the organisation by updating the Strategic Concept, adopting the key elements of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) within the Alliance. NATO also has launched the Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI), intensified its relations with its Partners through an enhanced and more operational PfP program, strengthened consultations and co-operation within the EAPC, enhanced the Mediterranean Dialogue, increased the Alliance's efforts against weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.

For the candidate countries recognition of the membership aspirations of Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other countries clarified that no European democratic country will be excluded from consideration, regardless of its geographic location. At Washington the Alliance has reaffirmed its commitment to openness and pledged that NATO will continue to welcome new members. This fact encourages us to double our efforts so that we would be qualified for membership in the second round of enlargement.
 
The evolution of NATO enlargement is remarkable, given that the idea of NATO openness seemed quite unrealistic in the early 1990s. But who, if not our countries, know better how expectations which seemed unrealistic by some became reality: in 1992, only two years after the re-establishment of independence, Lithuania was among the first countries extending recognition to then newly independent Slovenia. Our countries felt the need of political solidarity. Today, as never before, the call for political solidarity among all the candidate countries is relevant to keep NATO's enlargement high on the agenda in Washington and European capitals, in helping to break deep-rooted stereotypes which could impede further enlargement. Today, as never before, we need to underline what unites us rather than emphasise an atmosphere of rivalry.

Although divided by thousands of kilometres, Lithuania and Slovenia have, in our view, much in common. Firstly, our two countries contributed to the dismantlement of the similar systems of totalitarianism from within and took upon ourselves the responsibility of freedom, independence and rule of law. That is the best testimony to the communality of our goals; adherence to the values that have characterised Western part of the globe. After 50 years of its existence the Alliance continues to be a guarantor and safeguard of freedom and acts as the prerequisite for economic and social prosperity. Our membership in NATO would make final the recognition and consolidation of the chosen path of democracy and free market reforms.

It can be noted, secondly, that our two countries still border regions with high a degree of uncertainty and unpredictability, where countries are characterised by the fragility of democratic reforms and the remaining difficulties of the transitional period, or where authoritarian rulers suppress freedom, democracy and endanger other countries by spreading instability across the borders. In the environment of multiple challenges and risks, the significance of the Alliance remains equally important for Lithuania and Slovenia. New risks to security still exist and NATO's steady hand still saves lives and stops the spread of violence. Only through NATO's membership the zone of democratic reforms, stability, security and prosperity will be enlarged to deter against further extension of turbulent areas.

Thirdly, our two countries face the situation of still existing stereotypes or psychological barriers which became obstacles on our way to membership. A lot of old stereotypes were dismantled as the Alliance persistently pursued "open door" policy. But still some of them need to be diminished. One could say that so far NATO's enlargement process has reached the point beyond which in words of some scholars or politicians lay the "border of the former Soviet Union" or imaginary "former Yugoslavia". It is clear that these notions do not exist now, they belong to artificial creatures of the past. However, some politicians in their political rhetoric still use the notions such as "red line" or "great Yugoslavia".  I think it would be dangerous for the whole international community if one tries to materialise such non-existing notions. So, if one starts to revitalise such notions, it immediately leads to a drawing of new dividing lines and the raising of unfounded concerns. Indeed, old stereotypes should be banished from our discourse forever.

We are aware of strong Russia's resistance against the Baltic membership in the Alliance and NATO knows this as well. But whatever psychological barriers may exist among Russia's decision-makers, they will be reinforced if NATO stops the enlargement process short of its stated goal of a reunited, democratic Europe. Redrawing "red lines" on the map of Europe evidences the remnants of old thinking. The NATO commitment to cross over these imaginary barriers, is the greatest assistance the West can offer Russia in helping to find its rightful place in a democratic Trans-Atlantic community. This is why the inclusion of Lithuania and other best prepared countries in the next round of NATO enlargement could be one of NATO's most important tasks which would demonstrate unequivocally that NATO's "open door" policy is credible and firm. NATO's decision to invite Lithuania for membership would extend the zone of stability and security in the Baltic region, and ensure continuity of NATO enlargement to other aspiring countries in North-eastern Europe.

Another stereotype often been noted is the intention to regard aspirant countries based on the "grouping" approach rather than based on their individual achievements. Although, geographically candidate countries can be characterised by proximity or some of them - by similar contemporary history, none of them want to be grouped artificially. At the Washington Summit NATO reaffirmed that no European democratic country will be excluded from consideration, regardless of its geographic location, and each aspirant will be considered on its own merits.

Let me now turn to the practical part of my presentation. I will start by saying that Lithuania is ready to assume the NATO membership responsibilities. Lithuania is a fully functioning, stable democracy where human rights, freedom of expression, the rule of law and free and fair elections have already become part of day-by-day life.

Preparations to meet NATO's membership requirements have led to structural changes in Lithuania's economy that helps our reform process. These reforms have stimulated economic growth which in turn draws more foreign investors to our country. In the first quarter of this year foreign direct investment has reached 1701 mln.USD compared with 1625.3 mln.USD throughout the entire year of 1998.

At the same time, the impact of the economic crisis in Russia has, on the one hand, shown the degree of openness of the economy, flexibility of economic agents and provided a further impetus to the restructuring and reorientation of the market activities. On the other hand, it has exposed the vulnerable aspects of the Lithuanian economy and indicated the directions for further policy measures and urgent reforms.

In the background of the turmoil in the Eastern markets the macroeconomic environment in Lithuania has remained stable. As a result of a strict monetary policy and the increase in supply of goods in the domestic market, inflation has been brought down to a very low level - 0.2 per cent in August, 1999 compared to December, 1998.

Maintenance of an open and productive dialogue and engagement with Russia has been one of NATO's important goals since the end of the Cold War. Lithuania has the same goal, and has actually been successful in maintaining friendly and co-operative relations with Russia. All political, economic and  security-related questions with Russia are being solved through constructive and mutually beneficial dialogue.

One of the best examples of our co-operation with Russia is the Kaliningrad region of Russian Federation.  Lithuania's relations with Russia's Kaliningrad region hold a distinct place in Lithuania's overall policy of encouraging regional co-operation. Lithuania intensively seeks to contribute to a stable and balanced development of the Kaliningrad region and to assist it in becoming an attractive partner for trade and investment. It is also important to ensure that as Lithuania and Poland integrate into EU and NATO, inhabitants of Kaliningrad will not feel isolated and could benefit from this fact through greater involvement in regional and sub-regional co-operation, increased economic co-operation and growing people to people contacts.

It is clear that Lithuania's intentions towards Russia are purely co-operative and it poses no threat to Russia today nor does it seek to threaten Russia's security in the future. But, there are still psychological barriers to overcome. I think that through co-operation and dialogue with Russia we will reduce the anxieties of Russia as my country moves toward integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.

On the practical part, we are creating an armed forces based on the Western model, which can be integrated into NATO and also function independently if we must defend alone. For these purposes, we have consistently allocated a high percentage of our national budget to defence. Lithuania's commitment to develop its defence capabilities and continue tangible NATO integration steps, is demonstrated by the January 1999, Parliamentary decision to tie defence spending to GDP and increase defence spending to 2% of GDP in 2001. Specifically, Lithuania is approaching the level of defence spending recommended for NATO members which will allow us to satisfy the requirements of a modern defence system.

We expect the Membership Action Plan (MAP) together with an enhanced PfP program to constitute a very practical and membership-tailored element of NATO's "open door" policy. However, even or without the Membership Action Plan Lithuania is well on the way to prepare to assume membership obligations. The objective of integration into NATO is firm and the steps we have been taking since the Madrid Summit testify to that resolve.

Let me emphasise that Lithuania has already established a Co-ordination Commission for integration into NATO. It is meant to enhance our administrative capacity and institutionalise internal co-ordination among the government ministries to better prepare ourselves for accession talks with NATO. There is an unwavering determination to proceed along this path and make the MAP a real success for us, for the Alliance and our mutual goal of European security.

In evaluating Lithuania's achievements, U.S. Secretary of State Mrs Albright has stated that such efforts are an important factor that will be considered as the U.S. assesses the future qualifications of Lithuania for NATO membership. The fact that Lithuania has made the most progress in preparing for NATO membership has also been recognised in the recent Council on Foreign Relations' Task Force report, "U.S. Policy Toward North-eastern Europe", which suggested admitting one Baltic country to NATO in the next enlargement round.

On our side, we are fully determined to keep up the momentum of our progress and to double our efforts to be the best-qualified candidate for the second round of enlargement. This obligation, freely undertaken, is a matter of both conscience and honour and we already see ourselves as a serious candidate for NATO membership. We continue to modernise our defence forces and through active diplomacy promote good neighbourly relations. This is our contribution to stability in Europe.

At the beginning of September, the Lithuanian Government approved the Lithuanian National NATO integration programme. Recently we have presented our Program to NATO.

Speaking specifically, let me note that the Lithuanian National NATO Integration Programme places great emphasis on the need to prepare force structures to contribute militarily to collective defence and to the Alliance's new missions. Lithuania has adopted a firm commitment to a progressive ten-year modernisation and procurement programme to improve its military capabilities.  Lithuania is also fully prepared to share the roles, risks, responsibilities, benefits and burdens of common security and collective defence; and to subscribe to the Strategic Concept and other Ministerial statements.

A ten year armed forces development plan foresees an active military force of 25.000. We have already begun to reform our reserve force. After completion of the reform we will have a complementary force of over 200.000 highly-motivated reservists who can be activated in a crisis.

The long-term defence plan outlines both quantitative and qualitative aspects for developing defence capabilities. The basic principles for combat forces are readiness, mobility, sustainability, survivability, flexibility and interoperability with NATO.  The long-term priorities include: C3, the adoption of a new force structure, systematised education and training system, logistics, quality of life improvement, development of infrastructure, armament and equipment procurement, and air defence.

As a NATO member, Lithuania is eager to participate fully in the NATO integrated military structure.  The precise arrangements for its participation will correspond to the needs of the Alliance and to the capabilities of Lithuania. In preparation, Lithuania will seek to identify qualified personnel and prepare them for work within the NATO Military Structures.

Lithuanian co-operation with, and participation in, NATO organisations and structures, provides an opportunity to improve national defence capabilities and interoperability.  This participation in NATO organisations is a further step in the development of the working relationship with NATO.
 
Lithuania will continue to gain NATO defence planning experience and expertise by participating in the expanded and adapted PARP and through familiarisation with the DPQ. Lithuania will attempt to use the next PARP planning cycle to further integrate aspects of the DPQ into Lithuanian's PARP Survey Response.  PARP is an effective tool in the country's preparation for NATO membership, especially for the participation in the Alliance's collective defence planning and the development of credible national self-defence capabilities.

I am convinced that membership in the Alliance requires not only to think, but also to act like an ally. Now Lithuania is engaged with almost 200 men in SFOR and in NATO-led humanitarian operation "Allied Harbour", with a contribution of 2 ambulance teams. Deployment of Lithuanian peace-keepers and policemen in Kosovo shows our commitment to the objectives of the international community to restore peace and stability in the Balkans. The concerted actions of NATO and its Euro-Atlantic Partners show that the North Atlantic Alliance has become an effective instrument of crisis management and conflict resolution.

The Kosovo crisis once again has revealed the fact that European countries have to have effective European crisis management capability in order to cope with potential crises that might occur at the periphery of Europe in the future. We regard the results of the Washington NATO Summit and the Cologne European Council to be of decisive importance for drawing up a set of principles on which the development of the European crisis management capabilities should be based.

Having in mind the prospect of possible integration of the WEU into EU, I would like to emphasise, that the issue of security for the whole of Europe is paramount. The processes of WEU merge into EU and strengthening of the European pillar of NATO firstly  should benefit the European security environment and, at the same time, not weaken but reinforce the transatlantic link lying at the heart of European security. I think it is the challenge for NATO, EU and non-EU countries. The question to solve is how to reconcile ongoing processes without causing any detriment to the European Security. If at stake is a more secure Europe, then what is needed is not only more responsibility given to EU, but the establishment of an inclusive dialogue and co-operation with all contributors to the Euro-Atlantic area. All candidates for NATO membership, including Lithuania and Slovenia,  come as a natural choice. Putting in practice the common European policy on security and defence concerns more than the current EU members and is the issue for consideration among all contributors to the security and stability  of the Euro-Atlantic area.

And finally, let me sum up by stating that we are entering a new millennium being stronger and more secure. But, still we have a feeling that something has to be done, some expectations should be fulfilled.

I hope that NATO on its side has a similar feeling - the Alliance is still incomplete. 'Open door'  policy needs to be put into effect through admission of the best prepared candidate countries to NATO during the second wave of enlargement.

Thank You.

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