VILNIUS – Today's immediate task is to strengthen Lithuania's military security, President Gitanas Nauseda says, adding that the country will need to invest more than it has so far.
"The immediate task today is to strengthen our country’s military security. The heroic defenders of Ukraine show how much can be achieved by joining forces in the face of mortal danger," Nauseda told Lithuanian lawmakers on Thursday when delivering his State of the Nation Address.
"This year, we will spend 2.5 percent of GDP on defenses. In the coming years, we will have to invest even more as well as to ensure the systematic education and training of military reserve personnel," the president said, stressing that the more men and women are prepared to defend their country, the greater the deterrent effect one can expect.
Speaking of the upcoming NATO summit in Madrid in late June, Nauseda voiced his expectation for "ambitious decisions (…), which will significantly strengthen the deterrence and defense of the eastern flank of the Alliance."
"NATO has already responded to the Russian threat by expanding its air policing mission in the Baltics. We must substantially reinforce air defense capabilities in Lithuania and the other Baltic States," he said. "I cannot see effective deterrence without expanding NATO’s enhanced forward presence to brigade size. We have recently agreed on this with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz."
As the geopolitical situation deteriorates, one needs to rapidly prepare for national defense, the Lithuanian leader said.
"To achieve comprehensive security, we must ensure that state institutions, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and ultimately all citizens are ready to fully support armed defense. The contribution of each and every is significant," Nauseda said.
In his speech, the president also stressed the importance of bolstering civil protection.
"We also have the unsafe Astravyets nuclear power plant – yet another tool of Russian and Belarusian aggressive policies – in our immediate neighborhood. We, therefore, need to establish the Crisis Management Center as soon as possible, start organizing civil exercises at national level, and move from declarations to actual work on reinforcing fire safety and civil protection," the president said, stressing the need for all municipalities have well-equipped shelters that meet at least minimum needs.
On irregular migration, Nauseda praised the country's institutions successfully handling the influx of illegal migrants from Belarus.
"Most importantly, the migration crisis provided an impetus to launch long-delayed work on strengthening the protection of Lithuania’s national and the EU’s external borders," Nauseda said.
Lithuanian border guards have sent 10,143 people back to Belarus since August 3, 2021, when they were given the right to deny entry to irregular migrants. However, the number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.
Lithuanian border guards have pushed back 2,037 people so far this year, compared to 8,106 over the whole past year.
On Thursday, Nauseda delivered his 3rd State of the Nation Address.