Center for Strategic Decision Research


Will There Be More or Less Security for Europe After Enlargement?

His Excellency Linas Linkevicius
Minister of Defense of Lithuania

Will there be more or less security for Europe after enlargement? My answer is that there will certainly be more. However, there will also be more unpredictable challenges, more unconventional threats that are not local or even regional but global in nature and scope. If we want to cope with these challenges and prevail, we simply must cooperate closely. 

Since the Prague summit, the area of stability and predictability has been expanding. This profound development will positively affect the overall security landscape of the entire Euro-Atlantic area, including the Baltic Sea region. That is not to say that there will be any major changes in our bilateral or multilateral defense-related relations with our partners and neighbors. The fact that we will be taking part in NATO's decision-making and policy-formation processes will only add a new quality of credibility and transparency to our security and defense policy. 


I believe that there is a promising future for the partnership between NATO and Russia in post-Prague Europe. I also hope that Lithuania will use its experience to make a valuable contribution to their dialogue. Lithuania has managed to turn its dramatic past under the Soviet Union into a window of opportunity for building a peaceful future. 

Russia and Lithuania have been successfully cooperating on a number of issues, including minority rights, border and readmission treaties, cross-border cooperation, transit (including military), and troop withdrawal. We bring all of this experience to the Alliance. And because we all have a stake in the Euro-Atlantic community's efforts to bring Russia as close to NATO as Russia wants to come, I believe the true success of this new round of NATO enlargement will not be so much the accession of new members but the Alliance's rapprochement with Russia. 

There is a common sentiment that Russia is an indispensable part of the Euro-Atlantic community. We must make sure that NATO enlargement does not result in new dividing lines on the European continent. For half a century we were the victims of an artificial line drawn across Europe, and we know very well the long-term damage that creates. Of course some remnants of the old way of thinking remain, as well as a desire to isolate Russia from the Euro-Atlantic community on both sides. But we should be patient with those who have not caught up with changing times and lag behind in their perception of today's world. 

I will not pretend that all things are perfect and rosy but integrating Russia into the Euro-Atlantic security area is a challenge, not a problem. It is hard to imagine having better momentum than we do now to move cooperation forward to a new level. All of us-the U.S., Europe, and Russia-should understand that this is a historic opportunity and it would be wasteful not to use it. The Baltic Sea region is as stable as any region can be in this unpredictable era and we must make full use of the region's existing cooperation framework as well as look for new opportunities. 

The Council of Baltic Sea States, the Northern Dimension Initiative, the Northern European Initiative, and BALTSEA, among others, are mechanisms that safeguard stability and security. They are what I mean by security through interdependence: building as many bilateral and multilateral ties as possible and building on very practical initiatives as well as pooling resources and working together. In the defense realm, it is time to consider launching a concrete regional initiative that would involve NATO, Russia, and the other countries in our region; for example, we could think about a common training project in Kaliningrad. Even a modest project would boost mil-to-mil dialogue and confidence building between NATO and Russia, as well as improve force interoperability for peace-support and for crisis-response operations. 

One thing is certain: we must more closely engage our Eastern partners-Russia, Ukraine, the South Caucasus, and Central Asian countries-in this cooperative effort. Without them, the Euro-Atlantic security system would be incomplete. This is why we must now help to implement NATO's promise to keep the door open for those willing and ready to join. This is the very essence of the Vilnius process as a cooperative effort to pursue NATO partnership. The Vilnius process should now encompass not only the most obvious candidates-Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia-but also other countries that seek to intensify their cooperation with the Alliance. 


It is my belief that we should seek the involvement of the United States in these matters. It was very sad to see the spirit of transatlantic solidarity, which was so wholeheartedly displayed after September 11, rapidly fade in the face of a new crisis. To save the transatlantic alliance we must now preserve U.S. interest in and commitment to Europe, and vice versa; as future members of both NATO and the EU we have a vital stake in that cooperation. After all, the U.S., Europe, and Russia all have the same basic agenda in the Euro-Atlantic area: to strengthen regional security and counter new challenges, such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. 


For the past decade, our region has not seen a single violent spark involving force or the threat to use force by any country. A recently resolved transit issue involving Kaliningrad is the latest example of how we can peacefully settle even the most difficult disputes. Good relations with our neighbors remain the key to security after Prague. But there is bad news too: in a rapidly changing world, we cannot be sure where new and unpredictable challenges will occur and what kinds of challenges they will be. In fact, the greatest risk I see to our security is that changes will occur more rapidly than our ability to adapt to them. 

Therefore our military must be ready for any scenario. Because of our history, we should feel vulnerable to traditional threats, but instead we are among those who argue that NATO must transform itself from an immobile defense alliance into a flexible rapid-reaction, conflict-prevention force capable of prompt intervention wherever needed. Today's threats do not allow long force-buildup periods; the armed forces must be capable of reacting in a matter of days or even hours. No less important, the war in Iraq has shown that, to prevent humanitarian disasters, civilian crisis-management and peace-building efforts must take place almost simultaneously with military operations. 

We often talk about a capabilities gap between the U.S. and Europe. To my mind, the true problem is a gap in threat assessment. Naturally, different countries have different security concerns. At the same time the need for a common denominator of threats is greater than ever before. Terrorist act, teraresticheskij akt, teroristischer anflug, atto terroristico, acte de terreur-it does not matter which language we use, because the threat is the same and an obvious area of converging interests. Ad hoc coalitions may provide temporary salvation in a crisis, but only a battle-scarred and storm-beaten organization such as NATO can be a long-term solution. If NATO is to remain relevant in the 21st century, it must go out of area or it will simply go out of business. 


To match our words with deeds, we are rapidly transforming our armed forces, dropping our outdated territorial defense posture, acquiring modern military capabilities, and literally going out of area in order to become a trustworthy new ally within a new alliance. Lithuania's defense policy is proof of this. We maintain 13 military commitments and participate in seven international missions, including Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Macedonia. After we deploy our second peacekeeping contingent to Iraq with the Polish mission, we will have deployed nearly 300 troops abroad. For a country with 3.5 million inhabitants and a 12,000-strong army, this is not a symbolic contribution to international security. We believe that our security is not just a national endeavor, but starts way beyond our borders: in the Balkans, in the Caucasus, in the Near East. If these regions are not stable and at peace, we will always feel the ripple effect of insecurity. 


Twenty years ago, nobody believed that the Cold War could end peacefully. Ten years ago nobody thought Lithuania would become a member of NATO, and nobody ever imagined that the Twin Towers could collapse. Who can tell what will happen tomorrow? Although today our nations may feel more secure than ever before, in fact we face a whole new era of unforeseen challenges, unpredicted threats, and unexpected crises. And if we continue living with the fears and prejudices of the past, we are doomed to fail in the future. 


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