Leadership: Lithuania Seeks To Outmaneuver The Past

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November 4, 2016: In late October NATO member Lithuania issued a 75 page “how to survive another Russian occupation” manual or its citizens called; "Prepare to survive emergencies and war." Lithuania has plenty of experience with being invaded and occupied by Russia and wants to remind its citizens what works, especially now that Lithuania has a mutual defense treaty with the United States and all other NATO members.

The “prepare to survive” guide provides tips on how to behave when dealing with the invader while also spying on the occupation force. The manual provides illustrations and description of most Russian weapons and details of how the Russians use secret police, local informants and special operations troops to try and control an occupied population. The manual also points out that Russia will send in agents (or activate ones it has already recruited) before an invasion and provides tips on how to detect the presence of these agents, especially in preparation for an imminent invasion.

Meanwhile tiny (population 2.9 million) Lithuania increased its defense spending 35 percent in 2016. That means Lithuania is spending $644 million (1.5 percent of GDP) on defense. Lithuania plans to increase defense spending to two percent of GDP by the end of the decade. Most of the new spending will go to pay for personnel as Lithuania has recently revived conscription and at least 3,000 men a year will be called up for nine months service (mostly training) and then become reservists. The rest of the additional money will go for new equipment and weapons.

Lithuania is not alone in doing this sort of thing. Since the Soviet Union fell apart many Russian neighbors have feared a revival of the traditional Russian aggression. Thus in 2004 Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia joined NATO, putting parts of the former Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) within NATO and on Russia’s border. Many Russians do not like this, for Russian policy since 1945 has been to establish a "buffer" of subservient countries between Russian territory and the rest of Western Europe (especially Germany). This attitude is obsolete in a practical sense but old habits die hard.

The Russian government said it was willing to work with NATO in areas of mutual benefit but that did not work out. Now there is a state of undeclared war between Russia and NATO. These new NATO members are more worried about the renewed Russian aggression than the original NATO members (the U.S. and Western Europe). The nations of “east NATO” are asking for more presence by troops from “west NATO.” Some of the eastern members (especially Poland) have called for the permanent basing of U.S. troops on their territory. Some of the smaller states (like the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) believe Russia could overrun them in two days and senior NATO military commanders openly agree. Russia considers such talk more evidence of NATO aggression against Russia. Lithuanians have heard this kind of talk from Russia before and want to avoid the usual outcome.

 


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