Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III welcomed Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas to the Pentagon for meetings and to sign a reciprocal defense procurement agreement that aims to strengthen deterrence in Europe.
NATO ally Lithuania is one of the frontline states that borders Russia. Anusauskas told Austin that his country will follow America's lead with respect to Russia, and NATO "is on the right side of history" on this issue.
Austin told Anusauskas that Lithuania "has become a beacon of democracy in the region. That includes hosting exiled Russian and Belarusian opposition leaders, which sets an important example for other allies to follow."
Lithuania has a border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad and with Belarus. "The regime in Belarus has been cynically using migrants as a hybrid tactic against Lithuania and its neighbors," Austin said. "Meanwhile, Russia is conducting a continuous hybrid campaign of its own. And now China is also increasing its pressure on Lithuania. I commend your government for its firm policy regarding China, and we know that you have faced reprisals for your principled decisions."
Lithuania became a NATO partner in 1991 and a full member of the alliance in 2004. U.S. and Lithuanian service members have served alongside one another in Afghanistan and in NATO and bilateral exercises over the years. Since 2019, there has been a rotational U.S. unit in the country along with a German-led NATO battalion.
"For decades, U.S. and Lithuanian service members have stood shoulder to shoulder against common threats and adversaries working together to advance our shared interests and values," Austin said. "And today, the United States again stands with Lithuania. And we’ll keep working together to strengthen the Lithuanian armed forces."
The next step is the U.S.-Lithuania Reciprocal Defense Procurement Agreement. Austin said this agreement will improve conditions for the acquisition of defense items and increase military interoperability.