Remarks by Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon and Meeting Welcoming Lithuania Minister of National Defence Karoblis to the Pentagon

Nov. 29, 2018
Secretary Of Defense James N. Mattis; Lithuania Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS: Well, Minister Karoblis and Ambassador Krisciunas, members of the delegation, military officers and civilians, welcome back to the Pentagon. Mr. Minister, one more time, it's a pleasure to host you here after seeing each other at last month's NATO Def Mins. That's always a very productive Def Mins. We continue our close and collaborative teamwork as NATO allies from the force of Lithuania, obviously to Brussels, and then here to Washington, D.C.

This year, the Lithuanian people celebrated an important milestone, the 100th anniversary of Lithuanians regained independence, something that we are also very proud of, in terms of our NATO allies. And these anniversaries mean your country's more recent release from coercive Communism. Lithuania serves as a potent reminder to others of how precious is freedom.

Our people's shared commitment to our democratic values and to trans-Atlantic unity have forged a strong bond between our nations, and between our militaries. The U.S. remains steadfastly committed to Baltic defense as Lithuania and the United States work together to reinforce respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, and to deter common security threats like those posed by the Russian Federation in demonstrated at Kerch just last weekend. Russia seeks to redraw the international borders by force, to tamper with other nations' democratic processes, and try to employ its veto power over other people's diplomatic, economic and security decisions.

In the face of such threats, the U.S. applauds Lithuania for exceeding NATO's Wales Pledge of two percent of defense spending, with almost 30 percent of your defense budget dedicated to procurement. You demonstrate Lithuania's leadership by example, proving again that the size of a country does not equal its importance.

The United States also appreciates your support for keeping NATO and European Union efforts complementary and transparent, enhancing military mobility and improving NATO command structure. Our democracies stand united and firmly committed to the common defense.

We also note and commend your leadership of the NATO Energy Security Center and (inaudible) those cyber initiatives, as well your recent hosting of the Baltic Defense Strategic Dialog and support for neighboring nations' defense reforms. These (inaudible) efforts illustrate the value you place on regional and trans-Atlantic security.

And, Mr. Minister, let me express my gratitude for Lithuania's caveat-free deployments to NATO missions, and never shying away from the most dangerous places. Your troops make clear their grit and their courage. Your valiant country always punches above its weight.

Thank you, as well, for your hosting of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission. Mr. Minister, I recall our visit to the woods last year, alongside troops from Germany and six other NATO allies, when you saw those forces unified under your command in training. Amidst the ranks, I could sense the confidence exuding from those troops, a confidence that left no doubt of their commitment to the mission of defending Europe's democracies, and to trans-Atlantic unified deterrence of danger.

Mr. Minister, today I look forward to bolstering our already-strong defense relationship as we work toward a brighter future for the region, and for the European and North American peoples. You and your ideas are most welcome here. Thank you for coming.

Mr. Minister, if you'd like to say a few words in front of the press.

MINISTER OF NATIONAL DEFENCE RAIMUNDAS KAROBLIS: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for possibility to meet me and my delegation in Washington, and to know that you're -- you are an (inaudible), and to, first of all, I would like to thank the United States and personally you for the assistance in the reassuring security in the region for Lithuania. Of course, your assistance and partnership with the United States, NATO, and your leadership at NATO are the existential importance of my country.

Of course, you already listed the involved majority; many items, of course, of our agenda, and the giant achievements, indeed, this year was really very important for my country. It was, as you mentioned, we celebrate 100 years anniversary of the establishment of -- of our country, the Republic of Lithuania. Also, on fourth of April, we had, of course, the meeting of (inaudible) Baltic countries and yours. President Trump, which was really very important, included in group. It was of the operation and security in defense issues, and well, of course, NATO summit is of (inaudible) of importance, but was also 100 years last week was celebrated, too -- 100 years from -- of the establishment of armed forces, and (inaudible) I really was -- was very happy that...

So among other soldiers in the parade which we have, we have American troops which are deployed in Lithuania, which are deployed in the EFP Poland, but also the battery of patriots, and indeed, it's also among the substantive issues which we have. Really, it's a very symbolic gesture, and we very much expect that we will continue our cooperation on such a mind/spirit.

SEC. MATTIS: Absolutely. Thank you, Mr. Minister.

So ladies and gentlemen, if the press will excuse us, we'll get down to work.


Q: What -- what is the signal of the Russians' actions in the Black Sea? What is the level of concern for you and your nation?

SEC. MATTIS: If you want to, you can answer.

MIN. KAROBLIS: Yes, it's, well, without (inaudible) process, without any doubts, that it is the act of aggression of Russia. And so by legal level, it's quite comparable as the annexation of Crimea. By these actions -- actions, Russia is trying to, well, to impose the control over the -- the Kerch Straits, which is related with -- with Crimea, and to close the sea. And it contradicts, so -- not only so the status, legal status of Crimea, but also the principles of the sea, regarding the open seas, and also bilateral agreement. And it is also the reflection of the situation which we have in the -- in the region, that Russia is not implementing international treaties, and such (inaudible) to the country, territorial integrity, not granted as such, and is necessary to the defense. And it's also a reflection that Ukraine defends the south system flank of NATO.

Q: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, have you received any requests from the Department of Homeland Security for additional military capabilities to support the border mission?

SEC. MATTIS: Yeah. With Department of Homeland Security, this is in reference to the border deployments of our troops. We meet daily with them. We are closing out the requests for assistance by meeting the requests. In some cases, those requests have been modified, either reduced or removed altogether, or broadened, and we work daily on it. Right now, we have no new requests, although we are discussing every day the situation. So I can't forecast what that will be.

But thanks very much, ladies and gentlemen. We need to get to work here. (inaudible)

MIN. KAROBLIS: Thank you.