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Lithuania is training the Ukrainian military despite its own inexperience

By Paul Antonopoulos | February 3, 2021

Lithuanian military instructors trained the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UBS) last month as a group of specialists from the National Defense Volunteer Force, the Training Doctrine Headquarters, the GKS Air Base and the Engineering Battalion went to Ukraine. The Lithuanian Ministry of Defense is attempting to bring the Ukrainian army closer to NATO standards by helping the reformation of military education and fund the training of Ukrainian officers at the Baltic Defense College. Decisionmakers in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius think they can assist Ukraine in joining NATO.

NATO granted Ukraine enhanced partnership status in June 2020 and the UBS switched to NATO’s military rank system in January this year. This increased Ukraine’s access to Alliance programs and military maneuvers. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry set a goal – to bring the Ukrainian military into compliance with NATO requirements. Ukrainian soldiers even began to learn English. This Lithuanian leadership over Ukraine is strange considering the vast differences between their military capabilities.

In the Global Firepower military ranking for 2021, Ukraine ranks 25th in the world despite supposedly having outdated standards. Lithuania is ranked 85th. For 2021, Kiev will spend $9.6 billion dollars on its military and Lithuania only $880 million. The UBS has 255,000 soldiers in their ranks, and Lithuania has only 20,565. Ukrainian warplanes and tanks are incomparable to Lithuania’s fleet. In addition, Ukraine has a defense industry, something the Baltic country does not. This huge difference in ranking and data brings to question why Lithuania is “teaching” Ukraine about military matters.

If specific quantitative indicators are ignored and some abstract NATO standards are prioritized, the Alliance’s operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere are considered catastrophic failures as they did not achieve any peace or stability after the Alliance’s regime change operations. Lithuania’s planned participation in NATO’s 2021 international operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Central African Republic, Mali and Kosovo is very modest with only 170 soldiers – this hardly constitutes as major wartime experience. In fact, Ukraine has more military experience than Lithuania when we consider the conflict in Donbass.

Lithuania will help Ukraine adapt to NATO standards, but despite Kiev’s loud statements about full membership by 2030, it is unlikely to be achieved. Replacing weapons and training hundreds of thousands of soldiers to NATO standards is a very complex, expensive and time-consuming process. As an example, Poland, which has been in the Alliance for 20 years, has not yet been able to completely get rid of its Soviet-era weaponry.

The problem of technological disadvantage also applies to the Lithuanian Armed Forces. Lithuania’s military-political ambitions, its desire to become NATO’s main center in the Baltic region against Russia, and becoming the main trainer of the UBS goes beyond their actual capabilities. Lithuania’s military spending exceeds 2% of GDP per year and is one of the very few countries to actually meet this criterion. However, the entirety of Lithuania’s GDP is only $54.63 billion, tiny compared to Ukraine’s $154 billion or Russia’s $1.7 trillion. Lithuania plans to increase its military spending to 2.5% of GDP. Although Lithuania is extremely ambitious, the reality is that NATO only views the Baltic country as a bridgehead against Kaliningrad in a potential war against Russia.

The indefinite stay of foreign military forces in Lithuania has been ongoing since 2017. Lithuania has the largest number of NATO military facilities in the region and the significant foreign presence demonstrates the powerlessness of their military despite their constant provocations against Russia and even Belarus. Lithuania has no tanks and most of their armored personnel carriers and military transport helicopters are Soviet remnants. In addition, Lithuania’s Naval Forces were formed by purchasing scrapped British trawlers and patrol cutters without missile armaments, something that is hardly up to NATO standards.

Lithuania joined NATO in 2004, long before Crimea reunited with Russia, and the militarization and utilization of the Baltic country’s sovereignty began immediately after they joined the Alliance.

An example of Lithuania’s military weakness is the 2006 agreement with Denmark, in which their only brigade at the time, the so-called Iron Wolf, was part of a Danish division and hence subordinated to foreigners. The brigade was eventually relocated to a German division, but the Danish division received a new Lithuanian brigade. Apparently, Lithuania’s military, which depends on the decisions of foreign commanders, is now capable of training and instructing the Ukrainian military.

The reality is that the strategic security of the Baltics is determined not by NATO forces in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, but by good neighborly relations with Russia that has expressed endlessly that it has no interest in a military conflict. Vilnius however refuses to take this into account while it increases its military budget and facilitates Ukraine’s attempt to join NATO.

Paul Antonopoulos is an independent geopolitical analyst.

February 3, 2021 - Posted by | Militarism | ,

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