FACT SHEET: The United States and Lithuania – NATO Allies and Global Partners
President Obama hosted Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, along with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves and Latvian President Andris Bērziņš, for a meeting in the White House on August 30. The visit underscored the close ties between the United States and the Baltic states, which are grounded in our shared values, ideals, and interests. The leaders highlighted ongoing cooperation in the following areas:
Defense and Security Cooperation:
- Afghanistan: Lithuania is a stalwart supporter of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan and has committed to continue supporting NATO’s post-2014 non-combat mission. Lithuania currently has approximately 240 troops, including Special Operations Forces and trainers, deployed in Afghanistan. Lithuania has led a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghor province since 2005, the smallest ISAF contributor nation to lead a PRT. Lithuania has pledged $500,000 annually from 2015 to 2017 to support the Afghan National Security Forces. The city of Klaipėda is also a key port along the Northern Distribution Network, which facilitates the transport of materiel to coalition troops in Afghanistan and serves as a retrograde route for materiel leaving the theater.
- Cyber Security: Lithuania has made cyber security a priority for its 2013 EU Presidency.
- Defense and Security Cooperation: U.S. and Lithuanian troops participate in a range of joint and multilateral exercises, including: SABER STRIKE, BALTOPS, and STEADFAST JAZZ 13. Lithuanian soldiers and defense personnel also receive technical training and strategic education in the United States.
- NATO Allies: As NATO Allies, the United States and Lithuania are committed to each other’s security and stand together in critical crisis areas worldwide. Lithuania has made valuable contributions to NATO operations since 1994. Additionally, Vilnius hosts a NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence, which advises NATO on all aspects of energy security.
- Nuclear Security: At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Lithuania announced its commitment to strengthen its contribution to the global effort on non-proliferation and nuclear security, including by opening a Nuclear Security Center of Excellence in Vilnius. In April 2013, the U.S. Secretary of State and Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs strengthened the countries’ partnership to combat nuclear terrorism by signing a joint action plan to protect against nuclear and radiological smuggling.
- The State Partnership Program: This year marks the 20th anniversary of Lithuania’s productive partnership with the Pennsylvania National Guard. The program has brought hundreds of Pennsylvania National Guard personnel together with their Lithuanian counterparts to strengthen a wide range of Lithuanian capabilities, including planning, crisis management, and civilian-military disaster response. Pennsylvania National Guard troops have partnered with Lithuanian troops to advance our joint efforts in Afghanistan.
Diplomatic Cooperation and Global Development:
- Development Cooperation: The majority of Lithuania’s bilateral assistance goes to Afghanistan, where Vilnius has contributed more than $7 million since 2006. In addition, Lithuania actively seeks to support democratization elsewhere around the world, using its own transition experience as a model for others. Along with the United States, Lithuania provides economic and technical support for a range of projects in the EU’s Eastern Partnership states, including Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. The Lithuanian government is preparing to submit an Emerging Donor Challenge Fund proposal, for which the Lithuanian government and the U.S. Department of State would co-finance nuclear security workshops on best practices in deterring nuclear material smuggling for Ukrainian, Moldovan, and Armenian participants. More recently, Lithuania has also joined multilateral efforts to assist democratization efforts in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Eastern Partnership: Lithuania has consistently placed the Eastern Partnership among its top foreign policy priorities. During the final week of November, Lithuania will host a series of events advancing the Eastern Partnership, culminating in the November 28-29 Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Lithuania has hosted the Belarusian European Humanities University since it was expelled from Minsk in 2004.
- Global Cooperation: Lithuania has been a strong ally in advancing human rights and democratic values around the world. During its 2009-2011 Presidency of the Community of Democracies, Lithuania helped establish the Democracy Partnership Challenge, which aims to channel financial and technical assistance to select emerging democracies. In 2011, Lithuania chaired the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, focusing on the promotion of energy security in Europe as well as democracy, human rights, and fundamental freedoms, notably freedom of the media, worldwide. On the security front, Lithuanian seamen are deployed to the EU-led anti-piracy Operation ATALANTA off the coast of Somalia. The unit protects a World Food Program-chartered vessel transporting food from Kenya to Somalia.
- Internet Governance: Lithuania actively participates in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), created at the 2005 World Summit on the Information Society as a venue for multi-stakeholder dialogue on internet policy issues. Lithuania hosted the fifth IGF meeting in Vilnius in 2010.
Economic, Energy, and Environmental Cooperation:
- Energy Security: Lithuania is rapidly moving to reduce energy dependence on a single supplier. Its energy strategy aims to increase both energy efficiency and energy diversification through the development of nuclear, LNG, renewable, and unconventional energy. Lithuania is also working to promote competition, interconnection, and investment in the local and EU energy markets. Since July 1, Lithuania has made energy security a top priority of its EU Presidency by focusing on the implementation of an internal energy market, increased energy efficiency and use of renewables, strengthened security of supply, and improved effectiveness of external energy policy.
- Trade, Investment, and Jobs: Trade between the United States and Lithuania exceeded $1.9 billion in 2012. The government of Lithuania has expressed support for the U.S.-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) negotiations. T-TIP aims to boost economic growth in the United States and in the EU and add to the more than 13 million American and EU jobs already supported by transatlantic trade and investment. Lithuania anticipates joining the Eurozone in 2015.
Educational and Cultural Ties:
- Educational Exchange Programs: Since 1992, the United States has awarded Fulbright fellowships to more than 170 outstanding scholars and students from Lithuania to study and conduct research in the United States. Additionally, in the past 20 years, more than 180 U.S. Fulbright scholars and students have conducted research and lectured at universities in Lithuania. Lithuania also participates in the Exchanges in Culture, Education, and Leadership (ExCEL) program, a public-private partnership. ExCEL sends high-school level students from Lithuania to the United States to spend a year in an American high school and is currently in its third year.
- Cultural Programs: Lithuania has hosted many American cultural events, including numerous jazz festivals and an annual American country music festival in Visaginas. A robust series of cultural exchanges between the United States and Lithuania in the fields of music and the arts have strengthened ties between American and Lithuanian societies.
- Professional Exchange Programs: Since 1991, 445 Lithuanians have participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Department of State’s premier professional exchange program, which brings current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields to the United States to experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. The current President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė, is an IVLP alumnus. In addition, approximately 1,245 Lithuanians took part in privately funded exchange programs with the United States last year, including the Summer Work Travel, Intern, College and University Student, and Secondary Student programs.