Lithuania should focus more on itself rather than on Berlin – Hodges

  • 2023-03-24
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – As Lithuania seeks permanent deployment of a German brigade in the country, it should focus more on strengthening its own capabilities rather than putting so much attention on discussions, says Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the United States Army Europe.

"Is Lithuania doing everything it can, which is Article 3 of the Washington Treaty? Everybody knows Article 5, but Article 3 is where it says each nation is responsible for its own defense," the retired lieutenant general told BNS in Vilnius on Friday.

"I heard three speakers this morning, all very good, not one of them said here's what we need to do as Lithuanians. All of them talked about the need for more from the outside," he added.

Lithuania has over 100,000 ready reserve troops but is not training them to any great extent, Hodges, who now works as a senior adviser for Human Rights First, an NGO, pointed out.

"Is Lithuania doing drills and exercises with all of these reservists? I'm pretty sure not. Has Lithuanian society done everything to be as resilient as the Finns are. I don't think so. Is Lithuania cooperating with Poland on fortification of borders? I can't tell. I don't think so. Can Lithuanian equipment work with Latvian and Estonian equipment? I don't think so. So what I'm saying is that Lithuanian security depends on more than just having German troops here. It's all these other things as well," Hodges said.

These are political questions that politicians have to answer, he underlined.

Lithuania now has an active reserve of around 27,000 troops who are regularly called up to improve their skills. Meanwhile, the ready reserve consists of around 106,000 people who are not regularly called up for new training.

Last year, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz signed a joint communiqué stating that "in addition to the current and reinforced enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group already in place, Germany is ready to lead a robust and combat-ready brigade in Lithuania dedicated to deter and defend against Russian aggression".

Vilnius wants a full rotational German brigade to be permanently deployed in the country. Berlin officials, however, have said numerous times that part of the brigade promised by Berlin would be deployed in Lithuania and the rest would stay at home.

They also say any decision on permanent deployment would be made at the NATO level.

Hodges is in favor of this solution as any deployment must be in line with the Alliance's defense plans.

"It would make sense that whatever forces are here, that it's part of the overall NATO defense. Lithuania is not an island. It has a native neighbor to the north and to the south," the former commander of the US Army Europe said.

Berlin is also leading an international allied battalion deployed in Lithuania since 2017.