Address by Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, at the Plenary Sitting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
30 May 2022
Photo by Olga Posaškova, Office of the Seimas
Participants of the Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted at this opportunity to welcome such a big number of honourable guests at the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania. My special welcome goes to the Ukrainian Delegation and Oleksandr Korniyenko, First Deputy Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. As a Speaker of the Seimas, I would also like to pay my respect to my counterparts from Sweden and Finland. I hope that you will participate in the NATO PA in another capacity in the future.
We meet at a critical time, a time when the roles and effectiveness of many institutions, including the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, are being tested. Let me wish this institution to pass the test of time and challenge.
I would like to begin my intervention by recalling Lithuania’s history of NATO membership. Together with other ‘big wave’ NATO enlargement countries, Lithuania has recently celebrated its 18th anniversary of NATO membership. NATO enlargement has been a historical success. Could you imagine what Lithuania and the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea would look like today if it were not for the enlargement of NATO and the EU? There is a good chance that, instead of three successful democracies, growing economies and contributors, today we would be another grey area with all the consequences that this entails. Therefore, we must collectively celebrate our achievements and protect what we have achieved. Because the gains are not irreversible. The war that Russia has started against Ukraine demonstrates this in the most brutal way. Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine is yet another proof that the Kremlin has the intent and the willingness to attack neighbouring democratic societies. But please make no mistake – at stake is not merely another neighbouring country of Russia, but rather the international security architecture as we know it after the fall of the Berlin Wall. A clear indicator of the Russian pursuits is a list of demands issued by Russia to the US and NATO before the latest invasion of Ukraine. This reminds us that the world should be seen as it is, not as we would like it to be. And we should act accordingly.
Therefore, as we look ahead to the NATO’s Madrid Summit, we need to think about ways to prevent any attempts to change the security architecture and weaken the Alliance.
Any failure to protect by a single inch at least one of its members would deal an irreversible blow to the most important binding components of the Alliance, namely, trust and solidarity. Can you imagine the future of Europe if this were to happen?
That is why today we must follow two lines of defence: the hot line, currently running through Ukraine, and the cold one, running along the NATO’s borders. In fact, the latter is right here, as few as 25 km from this Chamber. In order to prevent the cold line from turning into a hot line, firstly, Ukraine must win and, secondly, NATO’s defence capabilities must be strengthened significantly, preventing the Kremlin from thinking even for a minute of testing NATO’s resolve by the force of arms.
Accordingly, at the NATO’s Madrid Summit, we would expect several key deliverables aimed at adapting NATO and helping Ukraine.
I will start with NATO adaptation. The Alliance must fundamentally strengthen its deterrence and defence posture. In view of the recent security developments and Russia’s continued military aggression and war-mongering rhetoric towards NATO, the Alliance must be fully prepared to provide collective defence at short notice in the event of aggression. In our view, NATO needs to move from gradual response based on the deployment of reinforcements to forward forces capable of undertaking immediate large-scale defence. In particular, we propose and ask that NATO Forward Presence Battle Groups be increased to the level of NATO Forward Brigades; credible NATO air defence positions be established in the Baltic States; and prepositioning of NATO equipment and supplies in the Baltic States be reinforced.
Please understand that, in view of the atrocities and the level of inhumanity and cruelty of the Russian army, we do not want to become another Bucha or Mariupol.
For our part, we are prepared to invest in ourselves. We have already taken strong measures to improve our Host Nation Support infrastructure. Lithuania’s commitments are backed not only by words but also by funding: the Parliament of Lithuania has taken the decision to ramp up the national defence budget to more than 2.5 percent of GDP this year.
Now, as far as Ukraine is concerned, NATO’s Madrid Summit should also send an unequivocal message of support to Ukraine, to its fight against the aggressor, and to its territorial integrity. Ukraine needs our continued military assistance. After all, it is already clear that, regardless of how much we try to appease the Kremlin Regime, this will not prevent it from new military adventures. The measures we have taken so far have not helped to change Putin’s calculations. Only the Ukrainian military response can influence his decisions. However, for this, weapons are needed.
We also need to send a clear political signal of support to Ukraine and reaffirm that NATO’s door is open for Ukraine. It is up to Ukraine to decide whether or not to apply for joining the Alliance. It cannot be a third-party decision. The decision by Finland and Sweden to join NATO has opened a window of opportunity for the Alliance to declare once again, clearly and unequivocally, in Madrid, that NATO’s open door principle remains firm.
I take this opportunity to wish our Swedish and Finnish counterparts a speedy NATO accession process. We all, as national parliaments, share the responsibility of making sure that nothing goes wrong with Finland’s and Sweden’s accession process.
In addition to all the other obvious benefits of the Finnish and Swedish NATO membership, it would strengthen the defence cooperation between NATO and the EU, and thus enhance the transatlantic bond. More generally, the European security architecture would become more coherent, which would also help to respond more easily to the challenges in other Eastern Partnership countries and the Western Balkans.
To conclude, I would like to thank you once again for your partnership. The unity of member countries of NATO and its partners now is more important than ever before.