“The United Kingdom is extremely important Lithuania’s ally, and the multinational Joint Expeditionary Force it leads is particularly important security and deterrence instrument to Lithuania. We need like-minded nations and high readiness forces that send a strong message that partners are ready to give a timely response to any unpredictable crises,” Vice Minister of National Defence Vytautas Umbrasas, said on May 31 at a meeting with UK Major General Stuart Skeates.
The UK–led Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), the part of which Lithuania is, commanded by General Skeates will reach full operational capability this summer and will be available for deployment to the operations it has been formed for – from humanitarian aid to deterrence an combat actions.
Vice Minister V. Umbrasas and General S. Skeates also discussed JEF LIVEX that ran in the United Kingdom in the junction of April and May where Lithuania took part with its Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf Algirdas Battalion company, over 160 soldiers, a 100 percent of Lithuanian capability assigned to the JEF.
“JEF LIVEX was not only important to Lithuanian troops but also was a one more opportunity for Lithuania to strengthen its military cooperation with all JEF nations, particularly the UK,” V. Umbrasas stressed. “We appreciate the opportunity for Lithuania to contribute to ensuring the JEF Land Element reaches full operation capability and ready to act.”
“I am certain the Joint Expeditionary Force has the capability and readiness to ensure security whenever needed, as also demonstrated by the recent JEF exercise,” Major General S. Skeates said.
The ability of Lithuanian and British soldiers assigned to the JEF to operate jointly will be tested once again at Exercise Thunder Strike 2018 in June in Lithuania where a UK company will be training.
In a discussion on the deployment of the JEF to operations Vice Minister V. Umbrasas underscored that the capability had to be tested in operational environment too, and the readiness and interoperability had to be strengthened in real-life environment. “All options of JEF deployment have to be thoroughly assessed and the force formed on the basis of available resources,” Vice Minister said.
The Joint Expeditionary Force will be formally announced having reached full operational capability when JEF Defence Ministers will sign the main Memorandum of Understanding in late June.
Vice Minister also thanked the United Kingdom and General personally for the measures strengthening regional security: contribution to the NATO Ari Policing Mission in the Baltic states, active participation in the NATO enhanced Forward Presence – British soldiers lead the NATO eFP Battle Group in Estonia.
“Security cooperation of the UK and Lithuania has significantly intensified in the past years. I would like to assure that the United Kingdom is and will be Lithuania’s friend,” Maj Gen S. Skeates said.
Maj Gen also visited the Defence Staff of the Lithuanian Armed Forces and met with its Chief Maj Gen Vitalijus Vaikšnoras for a discussion on security challenges in the region, further cooperation between Lithuanian and British militaries, preparation for the upcoming exercises, and possible future JEF deployment.
General Skeates also visited the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania, met with its Commandant Brig Gen Algis Vaičeliūnas, delivered a lecture to cadets and discussed regional security and other relevant topics with future Lithuanian officers. General will also meet with representatives of the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence and the National Cyber Security Centre.
The Joint Expeditionary Force is a high readiness force tailored for wide-spectrum military operations worldwide, including deterrence, combat and humanitarian assistance. Decisions on deployment of the elements forming the Joint Expeditionary Force are taken by the assigning nations. The force will also be able to support NATO, United Nations, or EU actions, or augment other multinational forces: even though it is based on a different concept than multinational organisations, the JEF is aligned with NATO standard and procedures .
Up to 10 thousand soldiers of Denmark, Estonia, UK, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Sweden can be mobilised for the JEF.
Lithuania assigned one staff officer for the Joint Expeditionary Force, he has been in service with the JEF operational HQ in Northwood since early 2016, an infantry company operating in the Danish Battle Group in 2018, and a medical specialist assigned to the UK field hospital.