Lithuania trusts Washington despite situation in Syria, president says

  • 2019-10-15
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - President Gitanas Nauseda says Lithuania continues to have confidence in the United States despite the situation in northeastern Syria, where the withdrawal of American forces from the area cleared the way for Turkey's offensive against Washington's Kurdish allies. 

The president also believes that it is still possible to secure a permanent deployment of US troops to Lithuania.

When asked what lesson Lithuania could learn from the US decision to abandon its allies, Nauseda said on Tuesday that he remains confident about the US commitments. 

"One doesn't have to immediately draw lessons. As you can well understand, US policies are a matter for the US itself. We still regard the US as a very responsible partner that has so far not lead us to doubt the firmness of its commitments toward Lithuania," he said.  

Nauseda said he welcomes the strengthening military cooperation between Lithuania and the United States, noting that 500 American troops have just deployed to Lithuania for six months. 

According to the president, neighboring Poland's success in convincing Washington about the need for a permanent deployment of several thousand US troops in the country shows that this is possible in Lithuania as well. 

"This is a realistic aspiration that can be achieved through consistent cooperation. And this is what we are going to do in the future," Nauseda said. 

The US deployed a company-sized unit of around 200 to Lithuania in 2014 in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea, but pulled out the rotational troops in 2017 after NATO's German-led battalion was stationed in the country. 

Turkish troops crossed the border almost a week ago and are pushing deeper into northern Syria. Ankara says it wants to create a buffer zone to protect the Turkish border from Kurdish and Islamic State (IS) militants.

Nauseda said he is watching the escalating situation with concern, and believes that political and diplomatic means to resolve the conflict have not yet been exhausted. 

"We want to believe that the US president will find ways to convince the Turkish side to end this bloody aggression and return to a normal and civilized way of solving the problem," he said.

The EU has condemned Turkey's offensive, warning that the operation may spark a humanitarian crisis and undermine the fight against IS.