Eyeing Russia, defense minister calls for stronger army

  • 2008-08-20
  • By Adam Mullett
VILNIUS - Defense Minister Juozas Olekas has called for amendments to national defense legislation, which he says must be thoroughly revised and updated in the face of a potential Russian threat.
Following the Russian invasion of Georgia, Olekas drew parallels between Lithuania and Georgia, saying that his country would not be ready for an attack.

"We will be making certain corrections as recent events have shown that even the relatively strong military of Georgia, numbering in 40,000 recruits, was unable to effectively oppose Russia's attack. That is a lesson we must learn, meaning that we have to revise our military readiness," Olekas said.
Close monitoring of the invasion has prompted the changes. Lithuania was the first to give support to Georgia in the recent war with Russia. "Lithuanian armed forces have been keeping a close eye in Georgia," Ruta Apeikyte, a ministry spokesperson, told The Baltic Times.

"We are now only analyzing information and if we need to, changes will be made to the legislation," Apeikyte said.
Arunas Molis, a lecturer at the Baltic Defense College, supports developing Lithuania's military capabilities but believes it is unlikely that the country could repel a Russian invasion. "We were never ready to defend against Russia. We aren't ready now, and I can never see us being ready in the future," he said.
Molis believes that the current tactics are working effectively. "It would be difficult to imagine that Lithuania could ever resist a nation so big as Russia. That was our reason to join NATO. It has been our strategy for the last 15 years 's we would expect to receive support from other NATO countries," he said.

He also called for calm, however, saying that Georgia is not in the same position as any of the Baltic States. "I don't believe that Russia would attack. There has been no such provocation like that in Georgia," Molis said.
The daily newspaper Vilniaus Diena reported on Tuesday that military, political and diplomatic experts have been asked to revise existing legislation regarding the military readiness of the state in light of the fresh hazards presented by Russia's attacks on Georgia.

President Valdas Adamkus does not view the issue as an emergency and has not yet called an extraordinary meeting of the National Defense Council to discuss the possible changes considering the recent developments.
National security adviser Mindaugas Ladiga said it is up to the experts to work out and present suggestions on changes to Lithuania's defense strategy. Then the National Defense Council can mull over and adopt or reject the suggested changes.

The schedule for the changes in the legislation has not yet been released. "The meeting and its agenda will be notified in advance," said Ladiga
Lithuanian politicians have not reacted as quickly as officials in neighboring countries. Last week, Latvia called an extraordinary meeting of the National Security Council, resolving to revise its strategy for Russian relations and to increase the defensive capacity of the state.

The Latvian meeting was called partly in response to the threats from the Russian ambassador to Latvia, Alexander Veshnyakov, who warned the country against involvement in Georgia. "One must not hurry on such serious issues, as serious mistakes can be made that have to be paid for a long time afterwards," he said.
Many members of the National Defense Council under President Adamkus are currently on vacation. Olekas returned from his annual holiday yesterday and Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas took his vacation as an opportunity to visit the Beijing Olympics. The General Director of the State Security Department, Povilas Malakauskas, will be on vacation for yet another week.

The government will have its first post-holiday meeting Wednesday, Aug. 27.