News2019.12.04 14:26

Baltics to confront Turkey, engage with Trump in '2-percent club'

BNS 2019.12.04 14:26

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda plans to seek allied support over the threat posed by Russia at the NATO summit in London but disagreements among the American, French and Turkish leaders might undermine solidarity.

On Wednesday, Nausėda will attend a working session of NATO leaders and also exclusive lunch hosted by the US President Donald Trump for countries spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense.

Diplomatic sources say the Lithuanian president and his Latvian, Estonian and Polish counterparts also plan to have a separate meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They aim to convince Erdogan not to block the updated defense plan for the Baltics and Poland over Ankara's demands to designate Kurdish groups as terrorist organisations.

According to LRT sources, President Nausėda and his Baltic and Polish counterparts have already met with the Turkish president, and an update on progress is said to be announced by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at a press conference later on Wednesday.

Read more: Turkey 'will stand against' NATO plans for Baltics over Syria, confirms Erdogan

Alexander Vershbow, a former NATO deputy secretary general and now an expert at the Atlantic Council think-tank, says the Turkish veto is doing major political damage and is undermining the Alliance's solidarity.

"The Turkish veto is unfortunate more from a political point of view than a military point of view. There are existing plans and these updated plans are already there on the shelves if there is a crisis tonight," Vershbow told BNS in London.

"But it's not a good thing to take hostage plans that have to do with Article 5. It weakens solidarity in the Alliance," he added.

Joyless anniversary and Russia's threat

It had been planned that NATO leaders would celebrate its 70th anniversary, but disputes between Turkey and Western countries as well as the French president's statements on the "brain death" of NATO and ties with Russia played havoc.

French President Emmanuel Macron called for a strategic dialogue with Moscow, while the Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, along with other Central European leaders, said Russia is the biggest threat to the existing world order.

The two-percent club

Following the NATO session, Nausėda and eight other leaders are scheduled to gather for a meeting between states that spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence. The initiative was organised by the US President Donald Trump.

The Lithuanian president said he would view the lunch "as motivation for other countries to make more progress and also […] fulfill their obligations" to NATO's collective defence.

Spending on military in the Baltics went up by around 20 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, according to Euronews.

Read more: Lithuanian to meet 2 percent GDP defence spending this year, continue military modernisation

Nausėda plans to attract Trump's attention to the way Lithuania is taking care of its defence and are making military purchases from the US. Lithuania has recently decided to buy 200 JLTV armoured vehicles for 145 million euros. Vilnius also plans to spend a similar amount on six American Black Hawk helicopters.

"We realise very well where our priorities are," said Nausėda. "We investing into the absolutely necessary things for us, as we are replacing the military structure that remains from the Soviet times, and it will be soon replaced 100 percent."

"We are doing this to acquire modern equipment and acquire it from our best partners – the United States, Germany, and others," the Lithuanian president added.

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