“We are grateful to France for your contribution to a stronger security in the Baltic region – that is a clear signal of Alliance unity and resolve to defend to any potential aggressor,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said at a meeting with Minister for the Armed Forces of France Florence Parly earlier today. The officials discussed regional security situation, bilateral cooperation, and NATO and EU agendas.
R. Karoblis underscored that the situation in Belarus once again revealed the fragility of the security in the region. “Public protests in Belarus and full military integration of the country with Russia eliminates any illusion: Russia really remains to be the biggest threat in our region. This is why we and our allies together have to demonstrate the Alliance unity in our response.” Minister of National Defence underscored that the transatlantic bond was inseparable from the security of Europe as a whole. “It is an irreplaceable guarantee of the security and stability in Europe, therefore we need to see the importance of deterrence and defence of the Euro-Atlantic space the same way and to be ready to enforce it.”
Minister also thanked F. Parly for the French contribution to the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania , support through the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states, participation in surface-based air defence exercise Tobruq Legacy that had just wrapped in Lithuania. He underscored that Lithuania was also aware of and serious about the threats from the South and consistently increasing its troop contributions in the region as a result. “We need a visible solid Alliance response to the threats from the East and from the South as well,” he said. Nearly half of the total of 120 Lithuanian soldiers deployed to international operations at the moment are in Africa. One of the best instances of Lithuania’s cooperation with France in multinational operations so far has been Lithuania’s contribution to the French national operation Sangaris in the Central African Republic. Lithuania’s contributions to international missions and operations in Mali (EUTM Mali), Central African Republic (EUTM RCA) and the UN-led operation in Mali (MINUSMA) can also be seen as concrete support to France.
R. Karoblis also pointed out the importance of significantly increasing investment in EU-wide military mobility and infrastructure because ensuring military mobility in immediate NATO response to threats in the eastern Baltic Sea region was one of the most critical elements in deterrence and defence plans.
Later Ministers R. Karoblis and F. Parly took part in the meeting of Lithuanian and French Presidents with the leadership of the multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group and the French military contingent serving in it in Rukla.
The French contingent deployed to Lithuania for six months of duty in July. Like all the other eFP contingents, the French soldiers brought their combat, logistical and administrative equipment. The maneuver unit serves with Leclerc main battle tanks and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles.
This is the fourth contingent that France deploys to implement the NATO deterrence and defence measures in the Baltic states through activities of the NATO eFPs in Lithuania and Estonia. The last time France deployed soldiers to the eFP in Lithuania was in 2018.
The NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group deployed in Lithuania since early 2017 has the total strength of over 1,200 soldiers. Its framework nation is Germany and contributing nations are the Netherlands, Norway, Czech Republic, Belgium, Iceland, and Luxembourg.
Defence cooperation of Lithuania and France
The two countries develop cooperation through various formats: NATO, European Union, bilaterally, etc.
France is one of the most active contributors to the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states: it has contributed eight rotations so far (five have been conducted from Šiauliai Air Base, two from Estonia, and one from Poland).
The countries maintain the strategic dialogue through meetings of representatives of the Lithuanian and the French Ministries of Defence and their corresponding militaries, Lithuanian-French defence workshops.
Defence cooperation is also developed in the framework of bilateral and multilateral military exercises. The cooperation is particularly intense in the form of military training: Lithuanian officers are sent to study in military education institutions in France, academic student exchange is conducted between military academies and scientific research centres of both countries.
The two countries also cooperate on defence procurement – in 2013 the Ministry of National Defence signed a contract with the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group on procurement of three AS 365 Dauphin helicopters for the Lithuanian Armed Forces. France is also inviting representatives of Lithuania and other Baltic states to large-scale defence industry events – Eurosatory, Euronaval.
France also contributes to the activity of the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence in Vilnius as one of the framework nations, a French officer has been the second in command at the centre since 2013.