2019.11.25 14:25

Public scepticism about defence spending a result of ‘misconception’, Lithuanian defence minister says

BNS 2019.11.25 14:25

Lithuania's defence minister believes that the public's disapproval of further raising defence spending is down to misconceptions and unresolved social problems. Raimundas Karoblis insists that the country needs to increase defence spending in view of a fundamentally changed security situation.

His comment came in response to a recent public opinion poll showing that more than half of people in Lithuania opposed plans to gradually increase defence spending to at least 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030.

Lithuania is currently one of few NATO member states that spends 2 percent of its GDP on the military.

Read more: Majority of Lithuanians against upping defence spending to 2.5 percent GDP – survey

“We have a strong public and political support for allocating 2 percent of GDP for national defence, and the army now enjoys highest public support in years, and that's very important,” Karoblis said in a comment sent to BNS.

In his opinion, the survey results are “a direct reflection of unresolved social problems and public misconception that national defence gets the lion's share of the budget”.

“We cannot pit defence funding against funding for other areas, since that divides the public and poses a direct threat to national security,” the minister believes.

He says that defence accounts for the fourth biggest chunk of government spending, after social security, healthcare and education, “a proper and right place”.

Moreover, he says, 70 percent of defense expenditure comes back into the economy through acquisitions taxes.

“Until 2014, the Lithuanian army and its modernisation needs were underfunded. And we must ensure transparent and effective investment into the army's modernisation,” the minister said.

He also stressed that a changed security situation and “lessons of Georgia and Ukraine” were what motivated plans to raise defence spending to 2.5 of GDP and not commitments to NATO partners.

“Threats are real and major, and nobody will defend us if we don’t defend ourselves,” the defence minister said.

Last year, six Lithuanian parliamentary parties signed a so-called national agreement to raise defence spending to 2.5 of GDP by 2030.

A recent Vilmorus survey indicated that 30.3 percent of the public supported the plans, while 55.2 percent opposed them.

Lithuania's defence budget accounts for about 2.03 percent of GDP, meeting NATO's target of 2 percent for the first time this year.