Mullen Continues Talks with Baltic Allies in Lithuania
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
VILNIUS, Lithuania, Oct. 22, 2008 The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff met with officials here today as he continued to reaffirm America’s commitment to the collective defense of NATO during meetings with allies in the Baltic republics.
A key element of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen’s discussions here was “Article 5” of the NATO treaty, which declares that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all NATO members.
“From the United States perspective, the Article 5 responsibilities are absolute,” Mullen said during a news conference.
The chairman visited the region following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, in Helsinki, Finland, yesterday. Mullen said all the nations in the region were concerned when Russia invaded Georgia in August, and his presence in the region was to reassure NATO allies of America’s continued commitment to mutual defense.
“I believe that Article 5 is not an issue for discussion,” Lt. Gen. Valdas Tutkus, Lithuania’s chief of defense, said at the news conference. “We in Lithuania strongly believe that the Article 5 is in place. That was one of the reasons for Lithuania to join NATO.”
Mullen said he and Tutkus discussed the bilateral military relationship between the United States and Lithuania, including the exercise program and ways to share lessons learned from combat.
“Warfighting and technology are changing,” he said. “How do we take the lessons we are learning in real combat and translate that to other militaries and countries in other parts of the world?”
Mullen praised Lithuania for its support in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lithuania commands a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan and has special operations forces working in the southern part of the country. Tutkus said Lithuania will increase its special forces personnel in Afghanistan next year.
The chairman said he also discussed NATO’s air policing mission in the Baltic republics with his Lithuanian counterpart. NATO nations have committed to policing the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania through 2011. Mullen said the Baltic states and their NATO allies have time to further discuss the mission and the way forward.