Lithuania, United States boost defense

  • 2000-08-10
VILNIUS (BNS) - On Aug. 7 the Office of Defence Cooperation opened at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius which effectively means that the Unites States has started defense cooperation with Lithuania at a higher level.

The newly opened structure will take over the functions of the Security Assistance Office which has been working at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius since 1995. It will coordinate internatinal programmes which lead to signing agreements with the United States on receiving services and the produce of the U.S. military industry.

"The transition from assistance in defense security to defense cooperation is not simply changing the terminology. This is a reflection of Lithuania's efforts to reach development, it is also the recognition of its progress," Lt. Col. Maella Lohman said, speaking at the opening ceremony.

Lohman was the head of the Security Assistance Office, and now she will be in charge of the new structure.

The U.S. charge d'affairs, Anthony Spakauskas, said the United States supported Lithuania's NATO membership aspirations. He said he was convinced that all-round assistance indispensable for NATO membership will reach Lithuania through the Office of Defense Cooperation.

The Lithuanian Defence Minister, Ceslovas Stankevicius, expressed his satisfaction with the U.S. military assitance. He said he would like to see the ODC "in a skyscraper with a large team working in this country."

In line with the U.S. Foreign Military Financing programme, ODC pledges to support the Kaunas-based maps and cartography centre, it will also help to enhance the capacity of Lithuania's mililtary airports and technical capability of air transport facilities of the Baltic states, it will assist in purchasing air defence and anti-tank defense systems and developing defense capabilities against nuclear and chemical attacks, and finally, developing skills of communication in English.

Incidentally, in line with the U.S. Foreign Military Financing program approved this year by the U.S. Congress, $4.4 million worth of assistance will be granted to Lithuania. According to the U.S. Embassy figures, since the oppening in 1995, the office has coordinated military financing to Lithuania by foreign countries worth $14.4 million. Since 1996, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry has received surplus U.S. military equipment worth more than $8.9 million.

Modernizing the ministry's communications system by purchasing Harris-type radio link systems, setting up a regional air control center, foreign language centers and language labs, training instructors for the Baltic defense college, supplying spare parts for U.S.-made vehicles, are among the most impressive of all projects.

The Lithuanian deputy defense ministers, Romas Kilikauskas, Povilas Malakauskas and Edmundas Simanaitis, the Lithuanian army officials and military attaches of foreign states were also present at the opening ceremony.