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National Security

If permanence of policy-making personnel is an indication of policy continuity, Lithuania's defense policy in the early 1990s has been even more consistent than its foreign policy. Audrius Butkevicius, a young physician, was appointed minister of defense in Prunskiene's government in 1990 and served several years under five prime ministers.

Lithuania's struggle for independence was a peaceful revolution in which violence was not used. Thus, Lithuania's government did not inherit guerrilla forces or special troops, only the regular law enforcement agencies that chose to support independence. Following the declaration of independence, however, the Sajudis governments paid attention to the develop-ment of some defensive capability, and budgetary appropriations increased until 1993 when they stabilized at 1 percent of the budget, or at least 1 percent less than appropriations for education and culture and 3 percent less than those for medical care and other health services.

Butkevicius maintained that Lithuanian defense policy has the goal of responding to three threats to Lithuania's national security. First, Lithuania is highly vulnerable to threats from beyond its borders because of its location. Second, Lithuania's internal security and the defense of its borders are also challenged by instability within the former Soviet Union and by authoritarianism and nationalism expressed by certain political parties and movements in Russia. Finally, Lithuania's domestic peace is threatened by the growing problem of organized crime, which destabilizes social institutions and is accompanied by smuggling--of drugs, weapons, and aliens--as well as by violent crime. These threats are countered in part by participating in the activities of the NACC, the OSCE, and the Western European Union (WEU). Moreover, Lithuania is developing good bilateral relations with the other Baltic states and with Poland and Belarus, and it is improving its relations with Russia. Another important forum in which threats to Lithuania's national security can be countered is the Nordic Council (see Glossary). Butkevicius has coordinated policies and enhanced ties with the Nordic countries, especially with Denmark.

Lithuania's main defense accomplishments so far have been the withdrawal of Russian military forces, the establishment of an army, and association with NATO. An agreement signed with Russia in September 1992 committed Russia to removing its troops by August 31, 1993. Withdrawal was completed on time. The Lithuanian army slowly began taking shape in the fall of 1991 but was not formally established until November 19, 1992.

Lithuania's contacts with NATO have been numerous. Most important, Lithuania joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program. Reciprocal visits by officials have been supplemented by NATO naval unit visits to Klaipeda, Lithuania's only major port. An American frigate was among the visitors in 1992. Together with Poland, Lithuania has participated in several NATO war exercises, the first of which was "Baltops 1993," held in June in the Baltic Sea. Baltops continued in subsequent summers.

Lithuania remains especially concerned about the Russian presence in the Baltic region, which will be permanently based in the exclave of Kaliningrad. Although Russia has said it will gradually reduce the numbers of its military forces there, there are currently tens of thousands of military personnel in Kaliningrad Oblast.

Armed Forces

The information available on Lithuania's defense establishment indicates that Lithuania's "security structure" includes armed forces run by the Ministry of Defense; a domestic police force subordinate to the Ministry of Interior; and a Parliamentary Defense Service that protects the parliament and the president of the republic. The chief of the Internal Security Agency insists that the agency--successor to some of the KGB's functions--has no security force, although he thinks that there ought to be a budget to establish a force to deal with criminal and subversive elements. Under Soviet rule, the KGB had its own army and also controlled the border guard.

The president of the republic chairs the State Defense Council, consisting of the prime minister, the speaker of the parliament, the minister of defense, and the chief of the armed forces. All of those people, except the speaker, are appointed by the president; therefore, the State Defense Council is likely to be dominated by the president. The council considers and coordinates the most important questions of national defense. The government, the minister of defense, and the chief of the armed forces are responsible to the Seimas for the management and leadership of the armed forces. The minister of defense must be a civilian or a retired military officer.

Total armed forces in 1994 numbered about 8,900, including a 4,300-member army, 350-member navy, 250-member air force, and 4,000-member border guard. A coast guard, which is modeled on the United States Coast Guard, is being established. There is also a 12,000-member Home Guard force. The army's equipment includes fifteen BTR-60 armored personnel carriers. The navy has two small Soviet Grisha-III frigates, one Swedish and two Soviet patrol craft, and four converted civilian vessels. The air force's equipment includes twenty-four Soviet An-2, two Czechoslovak L-410 and four L-39 aircraft, and three Soviet Mi-8 helicopters. Germany has donated jeeps and uniforms for Lithuania's armed forces.

The Home Guard is organized on the Scandinavian model and protects borders, strategic facilities, and natural resources. Lithuania's military structure also includes civil defense forces, which provide administrative control of hazardous facilities, transportation, and special rescue services. The national security service is part of the Ministry of Interior and is responsible for the fight against organized crime.

The constitution calls for one year of compulsory military training or alternative service (for conscientious objectors). Conscription for defense forces started in December 1991. However, of the 20,000 annually eligible and legally obligated young men, only 6,000 were inducted in 1992. This rate is expected to continue. Women are not called to duty, and there are no plans for them to serve in the military.

In the opinion of the commander of NATO forces in Northern Europe, Lithuanian troops are well trained by Western standards. In the past, Lithuanians trained in France's military antiterrorism school, and some Lithuanian officers and noncommissioned officers have attended military schools in the United States, France, and Denmark.

Data as of January 1995

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