Lithuania is celebrating the 12th anniversary since joining NATO this week.
© Scanpix

The beginning. In 1993, all parliamentary parties signed a declaration, committing to the goal of joining NATO. The goal was achieved eleven years later, in 2004, when Lithuania became a full-fledged member of the international military alliance.

Air policing. In March 2004, NATO began its Baltic Air Policing mission. For ten years, the mission would to be performed by a single aircraft contingent located in Zokniai (near Šiauliai, north Lithuania), but after Russia's aggression in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, the mission was enhanced fourfold. The number of contingents was reduced again in autumn 2015 and split into two, one based in Lithuania and the other in Estonia.

First mission. During its second year in the Alliance, Lithuania set up and ran its very first security and reconstruction mission in the Ghor Province in Afghanistan. The mission ended in 2013.

Defence financing doubled. In the year that Lithuania joined NATO, the total direct funding for national defence was €249 million, which made up 1.52% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). This year, the funding stands at €574 million, equal to 1.48% of the GDP. Next year, when the budget of the Ministry of National Defence is increased by €150 million, defence funding will amount to 1.77% of the GDP.

NATO in Lithuania. In 2013, the NATO Energy Security Centre of Excellence (NATO ENSEC COE) began its operations and, two years later, a small headquarters of the Alliance was opened in Lithuania. In 2015, the US army started holding 200 units of military equipment in Mumaičiai, located in the Šiauliai district. Since April 2014, a permanent US company of about 200 soldiers has been deployed in Lithuania.

Military force. In 2006, the Lithuanian army spent €75 million on three Alenia C-27J Spartan military transport aircrafts. An agreement to buy two Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessels for €55 million was signed with Great Britain in late 2008.

2014 saw Lithuania buy man-portable air-defence systems GROM from Poland, worth €34 million, and FGM-148 Javelin fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles from the US, worth €20 million. In the end of 2015, Lithuania announced that it would buy several hundred more Javelin missiles for about €55 million.

Lithuania didn’t stop there, and in the same year ordered 21 PzH2000 armoured howitzers from the German military for €16 million. 2015 also saw the decision to order 88 German Boxer infantry fighting vehicles. This might become the biggest deal in Lithuania's military history, as the Boxers are worth about €400 million.

From conscription to conscription. In 2008, Lithuania dropped mandatory military conscription, only to reintroduce it in 2015, initially for a period of five years. This year, the State Defence Council proposed bringing back conscription permanently and the Seimas is to make the final decision soon.

Between 3,500 and 4,000 young men will be drafted for military service each year. At this time, there are about 8,200 professional soldiers serving in the Lithuanian military, 3,000 conscripts, about 4,600 volunteers and 2,400 civilian employees.

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