Baltic states should reopen debates of joint weaponry acquisitions – Lithuanian foreign minister
The three Baltic states should reopen the discussions of purchasing weaponry together, says Lithuania's Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.
"This is the area we should be looking at again and again until we manage to work together," Linkevičius told journalists in the Trakai district at the end of the annual Snow Meeting of national and foreign security policy experts.
In his words, joint acquisition of weaponry by the Baltic States would make it possible to get lower prices, as well as easier matching of the purchased systems.
Officials of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia keep raising the issue of the possibility of saving by buying weaponry together, however, the deals are never accomplished, as the three countries have failed to agree on their need of military equipment.
A few years ago, the Baltic nations considered joint acquisition of medium-range missile defence systems, however, finally it was only Lithuania that signed the NASAMS purchase contract with a Norwegian company.
Linkevičius said the countries in the region expected decisions in connection to air defence from the meeting of leaders of NATO countries scheduled for this summer.
"We are talking about integration of a certain air defence and missile defence system, which would be a result of the NATO efforts and the Alliance's efforts," said the Lithuanian diplomacy chief, however, did not elaborate on the decisions.
2018 is the first year when Lithuania and Latvia earmark 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) to defence. In Linkevičius' words, the Baltic States will now face the challenge of efficient spending the money.
Safe as Never Before
Amid the continuing concerns in the Baltic Sea region about Russia's actions in Ukraine, Linkevičius said that NATO had done a lot in the past few years to ensure safety of Lithuania.
His statement came in response to the words pronounced by Lithuania's first post-independence leader Vytautas Landsbergis earlier on Friday that the country is "as unsafe as never before."
Linkevičius emphasized that NATO immediately responded to Russia's actions and stationed a battalion in each of the Baltic States and Poland, a total of around 4,000 troops.
"Of course, we can discuss the size and other aspects, however, this sends an extremely strong military and political signal. (...) Therefore, saying that we are safer than we were ever before is also a fair thing," said the minister.
In his words, the international community should continue its pressure on Russia.
"We are not the type of a country that would wish someone ill or be proud of the language of sanctions. (...) Sanctions are the only measure we use to pressure Russia in our effort to make it change its attitude and values," said Linkevičius.