VILNIUS – The Armed Forces of Lithuania and Portugal are set to bolster their cooperation starting next year, Lithuania's Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys said as he hosted his Portuguese counterpart in the port city of Klaipeda on Thursday.
"The Portuguese chief of defense and I have agreed today that from next year onwards, this cooperation will further strengthen significantly, will grow and will be broader and we will probably find more prospects for cooperation not only within the framework of the Naval Forces and the Special Operations Forces, but also within the scope of other forces," Rupsys told a news conference.
"The presence of their ships, which is very important for us in the Baltic Sea from a strategic point of view, the presence of their land units, their cooperation, especially with the coastguard, the reinforcement of the protection capacity in the seaports and the sharing of the Portuguese experience is obviously very important for us," he added.
Antonio Silva Ribeiro, Chief of General Staff of the Portuguese Armed Forces, said that the strengthening of cooperation shows commitment to NATO.
"Although Portugal is the westernmost country (in Europe), our presence in countries like here and in Romania demonstrates our equality in our Alliance and our commitment to peace and security," Ribeiro said.
"We are going to discuss our plans later, but the main idea is to boost our presence in Lithuania. The general (Rupsys) and I are working on this and this is the main reason why I am here," he added.
Portuguese and Lithuanian troops conducted a demonstration exercise at the Lithuanian Navy's base in Klaipeda on Thursday.
The exercise involved a naval vessel and special purpose boats, snipers, special operations and other forces.
According to Rupsys, the Lithuanian-Portuguese defense cooperation started with the signing of a defense agreement back in 2002.
The first Portuguese troops arrived in the Lithuanian Air Force's base in Siauliai in 2007 and the country's fighter jets and their crews have since carried out five NATO policing missions.
Since 2015, Portuguese military personnel have been coming to Lithuania for training and exercises.
Lithuanian military officers have this year joined the EU's training mission in Mozambique at Portugal's request, Rupsys noted.
"Every year, we receive a different unit from Portugal, thus completing the picture of cooperation capabilities," Lithuania's chief of defense said.
"This year, 150 marines are training with the Lithuanian land, naval and special forces," he said. "Common procedures, command and control elements, and well-practiced joint military actions give us an advantage over any adversary."
According to Ribeiro, Portuguese troops in Lithuania train to operate in climatic conditions different from those at home.
"We have to use different equipment, different uniforms and different tactics," he said, adding that there are plans for Portuguese military personnel to take part in winter exercises in Lithuania as well.