Brussels, 20 March 2017 - The Sub-Committee on NATO Partnerships, led by Chairman Karl A. Lamers (Germany), visited Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia from 13 to 17 March 2017. Main items on the agenda were regional security challenges and the implementation of the decisions made at the 2016 Warsaw Summit. The delegation comprised 20 Parliamentarians from 12 NATO member countries and three associate delegations to the NATO PA and met with senior government officials as well as Parliamentarians and independent experts.
Government officials and parliamentary representatives in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia welcomed the outcome of the 2016 Warsaw Summit, particularly the decision to enhance NATO’s military presence in the Baltic region with the deployment of three battalions in their countries on a rotational basis.
While they were confident that the Warsaw Summit reinforced NATO’s collective defence officials in the three Baltic capitals also emphasised the importance of signalling to the Kremlin the "red lines" which Russia must not overstep to avoid potential miscalculations by Russian decision makers, according to Jonatan Vseviov, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence of Estonia.
However, NATO Allies need to be vigilant in the face of Russia’s continuing political and military provocations. Baltic officials, including Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, repeatedly criticised Russia’s conduct of an aggressive policy of misinformation and propaganda against NATO member states as well as partner countries. Officials, including Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, reminded the delegates that under Vladimir Putin Russia has always been trying and testing how far it can go. If NATO Allies do not counter the Kremlin’s provocative behaviour, the Kremlin will continue this approach, the Minister warned.
Strengthening European security also requires a better cooperation between NATO and the EU, the delegation heard. Moreover, President Grybauskaite stressed that Lithuania supports efforts to improve the security and defence capabilities of the European Union, provided that this does not duplicate NATO. This view was echoed in Latvia, where Ainars Latkovskis, Chairman of the Defence Committee said that “No one wants to change a winning team. For us, NATO is a winning team!”
Host country speakers stressed the need to support NATO partners Ukraine, Georgia, and the Republic of Moldova against Russian aggression. Calling the conflict in Ukraine a "conflict of Russia with the western civilisation", Ambassador Petras Vaitiekunas, Adviser to the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, emphasised that “NATO Allies must not leave Ukraine alone”. Continued support for Georgia was also important, as the security of the South Caucasus region is already fragile.
According to Ambassador Vaitiekunas, President Vladimir Putin wants “to make Russia great again and he is doing this by destroying the world order”. The “supertask”, namely making Russia a successful state, remains unresolved, he said. Although official interlocutors criticised the provocative policies of the Russian leadership, there was also general consensus that NATO should keep its door open for dialogue. Linas Linkevicius expressed the hope that Russia will be NATO’s partner again in the future. However, in the short to medium term, the political leadership in Moscow sees itself in an ideological conflict with the West, which is reflected by its ambition to create multi-polar world that also presumes dismantling of the existing global security architecture, suggested Janis Karlsberg, Deputy State Secretary in the Ministry of Defence of Latvia.
The week-long programme also included visits to the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence (COE STRATCOM) in Riga, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn (CCDCOE), and the Multinational Battalion in Rukla, Lithuania. The latter is part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in the Baltics. The Battlegroup, which was in the process of being deployed, is a truly international endeavour as it consists of troops from Germany (450 troops), Belgium and Luxembourg (150 troops), The Netherlands (200 troops), and Norway (200 troops).