A proud member of the world’s largest military alliance, Lithuania officially joined NATO on March 29, 2004. For nearly two decades, the country has continuously strengthened its own defence capabilities and actively contributed to Allied, European, and global security. Today, Lithuania continues to deliver on its security commitments, from increasing defence spending to developing new military infrastructure. The country is also getting ready to host the 33rd NATO Summit – the Alliance’s highest-level political meeting – this July in Vilnius.
Increasing military spending and maintaining public support
In the wake of the Russian war in Ukraine, Lithuania has increased its military budget. Having reached the NATO-mandated 2% of GDP military spending back in 2019, the country will spend 2.52% of GDP on defence in 2023. Moreover, the state budget allows for an increase of defence appropriations up to 3% of GDP over the course of the year.
Lithuanians support this focus on strengthening the country’s military readiness. According to a recent survey by the Ministry of National Defence, 68% of respondents are in favour of maintaining or increasing the current 2.5% of GDP funding for defence.
The survey also showed Lithuanians’ overwhelmingly positive attitude towards NATO. 90% of respondents support the presence of NATO Allied forces in Lithuania, while 89% are in favour of Lithuania’s NATO membership. Moreover, 82% of survey respondents – 8% more than in 2021 – believe that Lithuania should provide military assistance to NATO members in case of an armed conflict.
Building new capabilities
With higher levels of military spending, Lithuania significantly increased the scope of modernization of its military forces. In 2022 alone, a total of 20 important arms and equipment acquisition projects for the Lithuanian army were completed, including acquisitions of off-road JLTVs, Black Hawk helicopters and Switchblade combat drones. Lithuania has also expedited other critical weapons and equipment projects, such as purchasing the HIMARS artillery systems, infantry fighting vehicles, and howitzers. The new equipment will strengthen the Lithuanian army’s mobility, manoeuvrability, and firepower.
By acquiring division-level weapons and military equipment, Lithuania has laid the foundations for a division of the Lithuanian army. Prompted by the new security risks in the region, the establishment of a national division is one of the most significant steps for the military of modern independent Lithuania, both in terms of scope and complexity. The creation of the division by 2030 will ensure not only more efficient training and management of the Lithuanian army but also better inter-operability with the NATO forces.
Developing military infrastructure
The war in Ukraine has highlighted the strategic importance of the Allied presence on NATO’s Eastern flank. To facilitate a quicker and more efficient deployment of Allied capabilities in the region, Lithuania is stepping up efforts to ensure that the local military infrastructure meets the developing national and Allied requirements. Lithuania invests about 10% of its defence budget into army infrastructure, a percentage that has been growing significantly in recent years.
A logistics development project is underway in Rukla, where the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania – a Germany-led multinational battalion-size battlegroup – is stationed. Technical service and maintenance workshops, administrative premises, and other buildings have been planned, as well as comprehensive storage infrastructure.
In preparation for hosting the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, new infrastructure is under development in the Pabradė military training area. The project includes the construction of new barracks, engineering networks, technical repair workshops, a helicopter site, and other objects, with the works planned to be completed in 2025.
Another principal long-term project of the Ministry of National Defence is the infrastructure development at the Lithuanian Air Force Base at Šiauliai. It is the site of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission – rotating Allied air capabilities patrolling the Baltic airspace 24/7. The construction of the helicopter shelter has already been completed, with other projects underway.
Expanding living and training infrastructure
Lithuania is also expanding the existing and building new infrastructure for combat training, adapting it to the newly acquired weaponry. Among the largest projects is the new 17,000 ha military training ground in Rūdninkai. Opened last summer, it hosts infrastructure for Allied soldiers, including barracks, helipads, shooting ranges, and repair shops.
This year, the construction of three new military compounds in the Šiauliai, Vilnius and Šilalė districts is starting. The new infrastructure, developed through public-private partnerships, will meet NATO requirements and feature administrative and special purpose buildings, including barracks, canteens, a medical post, sports facilities and others.
Hosting the NATO Summit
Lithuania is the host of the NATO Summit this year. The event, which will take place on July 11—12, 2023, in Vilnius, will focus on strengthening the Alliance’s collective defence and deterrence as well as increasing support for Ukraine. During the summit, Lithuania will seek to ensure the implementation of the Madrid Summit decisions on strengthening the defence of the Alliance’s Eastern flank.
A proud and reliable member of NATO, Lithuania actively contributes to the Alliance’s goals of improving stability and security in the region and throughout Europe. Eighteen years after becoming a NATO nation, Lithuania works and trains together with its Allies to keep its citizens safe. In the air, at sea, on land, and in cyberspace, we are much stronger together than we are alone.