Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN
This week, the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) has overwhelmingly approved a renewed National Security Strategy (NSS), laying out 14 major hazards and risk factors to national security.
However, some security experts ridiculed it as «a hodgepodge» in which «all issues», even of the moral and spiritual realms are chucked in.
«It is a document where even soot-clogged chimneys pose risk to our national security,» Gediminas Grina, ex-director of Lithuania’s State Security Department and, now, a security consultant, ridiculed the document when speaking to BNN.
Yet the document has been approved by the 141-seat Seimas’ MPs, with one abstention and with no against.
«The new geopolitical situation and all the security hazards around Lithuania are clearly reflected in the strategy. As well as the possible domestic threats,» Juozas Olekas, former Defence minister and, now, a Social Democratic parliamentarian, praised it. Lithuanian legislature redrew the National Security Strategy last time five years ago, in 2012. The latest amendments were prompted by the radically new –and adverse- geopolitical situation in the region and beyond, the compilers underscored.
No1 on the list are threats arising from the conventional military threat posed by Russia’s «preparedness and will to use military force to achieve its objectives» and a build-up of its military capabilities close to the Lithuanian border, as well as Russia’s military activity, which lacks transparency and demonstrates the country’s military muscle, near the borders of Lithuania and other NATO member states,» the NSS states.
The Russia threat on the list is followed by «covert military and intelligence means» that are used and can be used by foreign countries to exert a negative influence on Lithuania’s political system, military capabilities, law-enforcement, social and economic stability and etc.
To go further, at number three are threats to the unity and cohesiveness of the Euro-Atlantic community, such as global or regional processes and third countries’ activities that could weaken ties of the Euro-Atlantic community, as well as NATO’s collective defence commitments and the EU’s capacities to pursue a common policy.
Other threats and dangers include global and regional instability, terrorism, extremism, growing radicalism, information and cyber threats, economic and energy dependence, economic vulnerability, social exclusion and regional disparities, poverty, demographic crisis, organized crime, corruption, and state and international-level emergencies.
The development of unsafe nuclear energy near Lithuanian borders is also identified as a threat to national security. Another threat to national security is a value crisis that is described as «disrespect for fundamental freedoms, downgrading of Christian values, family, liberal democracy and pluralistic society, spreading of anti-humanistic theories, religious doctrines and ideologies diminishing or denying the value of human life, inciting racial, national or religious discord, promoting or justifying violence, coercion and genocide.»
The NSS aims to enhance the national defence capacities and the financing of land defence so that it, in 2018, Lithuania will have reached the desired 2 per cent from the national budget.
Addressing the concern, the Parliament’s National Security and Defence Committee, past Tuesday, initiated update of the agreement reached among political parties on defence spending.
«To be able to prepare and deter new threats, we must raise the financing of our security and national defence,» the committee’s chairman Vytautas Bakas, a member of the ruling Peasants and Green Union, said.
The updated document should include a provision on gradual increase of defence spending to reach 2.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020. In Bakas’ words, the updated document should be signed before the end of 2017.
«I expect we will have the new national agreement this year. It will make no sense later. It is vitally important to send the message to our international partners that we can be their equal partners in negotiations and be able to speak to political architects in the US and NATO headquarters, take leadership in the region and address problems that we did address until now or were not too involved in,» chairman emphasised. He added: «When we started drafting the (national security) strategy, we didn’t have Trump, the US presidential elections, we did not have the challenges we see today, Brexit will bring enormous aspirations to influence the political system in Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. We did not have this scope of cyber-attacks, NATO’s external border is in question.»
Some of the MPs, like Conservative Laurynas Kasčiūnas, praised the commitment to raise the defence expenditures up to 2 per cent from the GDP in 2018 at the latest.
«With the economic growth we see, the financing of land defence in 2020 can be as high as 2,5 percent of the-then GDP. This is a very important message to our allies and the new US President, Donald Trump, who constantly accentuates that the allies have to resume bigger responsibility (in sharing defence costs). Having clinched the 2,5 per cent mark, we’d be among five top NATO states that earmark most for its defence and security,» the legislator underscored.
Approached by BNN, Gediminas Grina, former State Security Department head, criticized the NSS as a document aiming to «encompass all issues that Lithuania is dealing with.»
«In that mishmash, it’s very hard to discern real concerns, second-tier issues and general problems. For the Government, it has to be very hard to take things further from the medley. The fact that even 14 issues are mentioned in the document as the security hazards to our national security proves my words,» Grina suggested.«With so many issues named, we can talk about their compilation, not prioritization,» he underlined.
Some of the hazards, like «a value crisis», which is described as «disrespect for fundamental freedoms, downgrading of Christian values, family, liberal democracy and pluralistic society, spreading of anti-humanistic theories, religious doctrines and ideologies, are «pretty weird» for a document of the kind, the security expert believes.
«In the line-up, I wouldn’t be much surprised to see even clogged chimneys being considered by the NSS authors as danger to our national security,» Grina lampooned the document. «The phrase itself- hazards to national security- suggests that they should be related to foreign threats, not domestic issues.»
In his words, it would have been right for the strategy authors to single out five or six major threats to national security in order to focus on them.
Grina reminded that Lithuania’s State Defence Council (SDC), earlier the week, has outlined intelligence collection priorities.
«The logics would suggest that the NSS document should have preceded the SDC-drawn up document, not reversely. The Government’s programme has also been approved already, so, again logically, it would need some correlations following the document on national threats,» Grina suggested.