FACT SHEET: The United States and Lithuania - NATO Allies and Global Partners
President Obama, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė, and Latvian President Andris Bērziņš participated in a joint meeting hosted by Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on September 3. Their discussions 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
- Operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE: In light of the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, the United States is demonstrating its continued commitment to collective security through a series of actions designed to reassure NATO Allies and partners of America's dedication to enduring peace and stability in the region. As a first response to demonstrate our commitment to the defense of our Allies, the U.S. augmented its participation in Baltic Air Policing by sending an additional six F-15s to the NATO mission. Under operation ATLANTIC RESOLVE, U.S. Army Europe forces have deployed to Lithuania, along with other Allies in the region, to conduct land forces training. U.S. and Lithuanian troops participate in a range of other joint and multilateral exercises, including SABER STRIKE, BALTOPS, and STEADFAST JAZZ. 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, ten years before it became a member of NATO. Additionally, Vilnius hosts the NATO Energy Security Center of Excellence, which advises NATO on all aspects of energy security. Lithuania has also hosted the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission at its airbase in Siauliai since 2004.
- The State Partnership Program: For over 20 years, Lithuania has enjoyed a 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.
- 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 deployed at its peak nearly 273 troops, including Special Operations Forces and trainers to Afghanistan. From 2005 until 2013, Lithuania led a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Ghor province. Lithuania has pledged $500,000 annually from 2015 to 2017 to support the Afghan National Security Forces. The city of Klaipeda 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.
- 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 and opened a Nuclear Security Center of Excellence in Medininkai. 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.
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. Through the Emerging Donors Challenge Program, Lithuania and the United States have co-financed a range of foreign assistance activities in the EU’s Eastern Partnership states, including Armenia, Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. Lithuania has also joined multilateral efforts to support democratization in the Middle East and North Africa.
- Eastern Partnership: Lithuania has consistently placed the Eastern Partnership among its top foreign policy priorities, including during its 2013 EU Presidency, when it hosted the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. Lithuania has been a strong supporter of Ukraine’s new government and among the most vocal in pressing for a strong response to Russia’s illegal actions in Ukraine. Lithuania and the United States support the Belarusian European Humanities University, which has been based in Vilnius 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 2010-2011 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 to protect a World Food Program-chartered vessel transporting food from Kenya to Somalia.
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. This winter, Lithuania will inaugurate a new LNG import terminal at the port of Klaipeda. In 2015, electricity connections with Poland and Sweden are scheduled to come online. We are also working closely with Lithuania to share best practices in the sustainable development of unconventional hydrocarbon resources. Together, these projects will greatly enhance Lithuania’s energy security.
- Trade, Investment, and Jobs: Trade between the United States and Lithuania exceeded $2.4 billion in 2013. The government of Lithuania supports 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. The Lithuanian Government adopted an Action Plan in September 2013, highlighting its political commitment to adopt OECD standards and contribute to policy discussions in OECD Committees.
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 that sends students from Lithuania to the United States for a year of study in an American high school.
- 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 alumna. 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.