Bigger military budget needed: Olekas

  • 2008-09-10
  • By Adam Mullett

VILNIUS - Defense Minister Juozas Olekas has asked for his budget to be increased next year, arguing that it is below the spending level of other NATO members.
Rasa Jukneviciene, a member of the Lithuanian parliament's National Security and Defense Committee, backed Olekas' request for a larger military budget.

Jukneviciene sent out a call for a meeting of the State Defense Council in the face of the Georgia crisis.
Jukneviciene, of the opposition Conservatives, said that the council "should examine the condition of the national defense system and the combat readiness of the armed forces."
Current defense spending is at 1.16 percent of the gross domestic product, below the 2 percent stipulated in Lithuania's international obligations to NATO.
Olekas announced his plans on Thursday to have the national defense budget receive 0.05 percent more of the GDP.

"We have filed an application this year which would increase next year's financing by 0.05 percent. And keeping at this pace, we could approach the 2 percent threshold, which is in place in some NATO countries and which is our aim and that of all NATO members," Olekas said.
Olekas said other NATO members have criticized Lithuania for not spending enough on defense.
Jukneviciene said that Lithuania is bringing up the rear. "This year's allocations amount to merely 1.16 percent 's the funding of our defense system is among the lowest of all NATO countries. Amid very similar economic conditions, Poland, Estonia and Latvia are far ahead of us in terms of defense spending," she said.

Despite receiving more than in previous years, Olekas said the proportion of the national GDP had not changed. The current defense budget is around 150 million litas (43.5 million euros) more than last year, due to increased GDP.
Jukneviciene sees the structure of the armed forces as another problem and has expressed support for the idea of a professional army without conscripts.

Despite this, she stressed that the latest developments in Georgia proved a professional army was insufficient.
She said Lithuania needed to introduce basic military training programs for the general population. "We have just 2 percent of people ready to protect their own country. We need to take measures for that," she said.
The Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats party thinks everyone between 18 and 24 should take a seven-week course at a convenient time.

"This is how it is done in Finland. Every year they are invited to revise their training," Jukneviciene said.
The Conservatives also suggest initiating discussions of the joint Baltic defense plan together with Latvia, Estonia and NATO, with consultations with the United States under the four-country Baltic-U.S. charter.
Jukneviciene said that a "truly strategic coalition and defense integration with the Republic of Poland" was another important factor.

"We should consider the Polish president's proposal to coordinate the defense of five countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine," she said.
Presidential press secretary Rita Grumadaite said the defense council would meet before September 22, when President Valdas Adamkus departs for New York.
General Ramms, who is responsible for the NATO operation in Afghanistan, said Lithuania is doing very well and NATO has no official complaints.
Olekas had previously voiced concern about Lithuania's ability to fend off an attack similar to that seen in Georgia in August.

"We have to revise our military readiness," he said.