VILNIUS - Lithuania's move to make further cuts to defense funding would jeopardize the country's international commitments, head of the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee Arvydas Anusauskas has said.
"At the moment we are able to operate and meet all of our international commitments by reorganizing funds in the army, but if it was reduced further we would not be able to," Anusauskas told The Baltic Times.
At a press conference, he said Lithuania had taken "the penultimate position" in terms of defense system spending, with funding falling short of projected amounts.
Arunas Molis, a lecturer at the Baltic Defense College, told TBT cutting the budget would impair the army.
"I can only agree 's if you are cutting the money it will have an effect, or why would you ask for it? If the budget is cut, first of all it will affect the requisition of armaments and the infrastructure and personnel. The first place it will be cut would be investment and requisitions," he said.
Data provided by the Defense Ministry showed that the ministry had received 168.7 million litas (48.9 million euros) less than the projected funding 's and that it also received 114.7 million litas less in the 2008 allocations.
This year's defense budget will amount to 1.16 billion litas or just 1.01 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
NATO member-states are required to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense in order to qualify for the organization.
Molis said NATO might comment on the conduct of Lithuania.
"Lithuania will be noted by NATO [in] that it is not meeting all commitments and not spending enough on it, but I don't think Lithuania is the only one 's while this can't be justified, we are not the only ones," he said.
The previous Gediminas Kirkilas-led government had pledged to raise the defense budget by 0.05 percent of GDP each year, despite the financial crisis, to keep in line with NATO requests.
This pledge was rescinded, however, by new Minister of Defense Rasa Jukneviciene when President Valdas Adamkus swore her in.
Soldiers on the front line will not be affected by the budget cuts, but other strategic goals will not be realized.
"I don't think that it would have an effect [on our frontline troops] 's this is our first priority. Strategic airplanes and ships and radars will be affected 's these will not have a direct effect on international operations. But it will affect it because some projects that have been planned won't be implemented," he said.
Jukneviciene had said prior to the parliamentary elections that her party would enact conscription to bolster the army, but then back-flipped and said the government would provide basic training instead.
Anusauskas said that the committee was currently reviewing the rules to see if the current laws allowing the army to be completely voluntary are legal. "The conscripts have never been a significant part of the army, but we are going to the constitutional court to ensure that the current laws aren't against the constitution," he said
Jukneviciene said the 139th article of the Lithuanian Constitution would be realized with the training. The article states that "the defense of the State of Lithuania against a foreign armed attack shall be the right and duty of each citizen of the Republic of Lithuania."
This was supposed to be ensured by compulsory military service, but the Gediminas Kirkilas government abolished the law. Jukneviciene said she would not bring it back, but instead would organize general defense training for the citizens of Lithuania.