According to Juozas Olekas, the defense minister, the guidelines were based on the Government’s defense spending, changing geopolitical situation in the region and lessons from the war in Ukraine. As Olekas noted, new guidelines have exceptional features.
«It’s the first time since 2008 when we are planning not only defense maintenance but development as well, which is being allowed by our funds achieved,» said Olekas at a press conference.
Lithuania increased its defense spending up to 425 million euros (around 480 million U.S. dollars), or 1.1 percent of GDP, by around one third compared to 2014. The country’s political parties agreed to gradually increase defense spending up to 2 percent of GDP by 2020.
In his guidelines, the minister revealed plans to increase the army’s cooperation with public institutions and civilians.
Olekas also emphasized the development of rapid response forces which came into operation as of November 2014 to prevent hostile actions and unconventional war threats against Lithuania in peacetime.
«This year we are planning evaluative exercises and maybe forming a new combat group in the future,» revealed the minister.
Lithuanian rapid response forces include two combat groups, air force, special operations force and logistic support units.
According to Olekas, tasks associated with the establishment of international NATO military staffs are of great importance.
«We declare our complete readiness to receive such kind of staff. We also take necessary measures to ensure that international military unit with a size of battalion could participate in military exercises,» said Olekas.
Last week, defense ministers from NATO member countries agreed on the establishment of international military staffs in Lithuania and five other Central and Eastern European countries in response to new security threats in the region.
The development of combat capabilities, especially of the land forces, will be the top priority of Lithuania’s defense system development, said Olekas. It will be followed by the development of combat training and increase in command and cyber security capabilities.
According to the guidelines, Lithuanian army plans to increase its recruiting level up to at least 70 percent by gradually increasing the number of troops.
«We would like to see an increase of at least 450 troops every year,» said Olekas at the conference.
According to the minister, the main priority on increasing the personnel will be given to the rapid response forces.
Now the Lithuanian army has around 8,000 professional servicemen, around 4,500 volunteer troops and around 2,300 civilians working for the army, according to BNS news agency.
Lithuania plans to purchase anti-tank, anti-aircraft hardware and armored combat machines to increase its army’s mobility and capacity, revealed Olekas. (1 euro = 1.13 U.S. dollars).