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“15 Years in NATO!” – Lithuania celebrates its 15th anniversary in the transatlantic collective security Alliance

“Today Lithuania and the entire region are facing probably the biggest security threats since the re-establishment of independence, however our membership in the Alliance guarantees effective deterrence. NATO is and remains to be our key security assurance, not only to Lithuania but the entire transatlantic community,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis says.

After depositing the documents of ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, U.S., on March 29, 2004, Lithuania became a full-fledged member of the Alliance that seeks to prevent military conflict and preserve peace for nearly one billion people. For 70 years since its establishment in 1949 members of the Alliance have been bound together by history, shared values, and objectives.

Lithuania has proved to be a full-fledged and trustworthy member of the world’s strongest defensive Alliance over the 15 years and continues contributing to the main objectives of NATO – collective defence, crisis management and ensuring security on the basis of cooperation. Lithuania also responds to the changes in security environment by developing national defence capabilities, ensuring its contribution to deterrence and collective defence, and actively participating in international operations.

The Ministry of National Defence is inviting to mark this important date in Lithuania’s history throughout the country – by hoisting Lithuanian and NATO flags, holding community commemorations or NATO days in regions and inviting members of the nearest Lithuanian Armed Forces unit or NATO allies to participate.

The highlight event of the commemoration “15 Years in NATO!” in Simonas Daukantas Square in Vilnius begins at noon on March 30. The audience will be greeted by top officials of the country, Lithuanian and NATO flags will be solemnly hoisted, the Honour Guard Company of the Lithuanian Armed Forces will give a performance and rounds will be shot.

Pilots of the Polish Armed Forces conducting the current rotation of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states are expected to greet the viewers with a flyby in their F-16 fighter aircraft. Military equipment, gear and weaponry of the NATO allies deployed in Lithuania will be on display for familiarisation, as well as the activity of the NATO Force Integration Unit. A concert will mark the occasion on the square and will then be continued by the Lithuanian Armed Forces Band in front of the Ministry of National Defence (at 1300hrs, Totorių g. 25, Vilnius) where the bulk of the static display of weaponry, equipment, and gear and activity of the NATO Force Integration Unit in Lithuania will be presented.

The community of Savičius street in Vilnius plans to bring their share to the celebration of the 15th anniversary of NATO membership and invites to a merry event on the evening of March 29 in their street where the National Defence Volunteer Force Dixieland will perform and many fun surprises and prizes await.

Everyone interested in a wider discussion about Lithuania’s NATO membership are invited to attend a public debate with Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas on March 26, while Baltic Military Conference 2019 „Learning to Defend: Adapting Western Experiences in the Baltics“ will be held in Vilnius, at the General Jonas Žemaitis Military Academy of Lithuania on March 20-21.

The anniversary of Lithuania’s membership in NATO will be celebrated on the Lithuanian seashore too – everyone in Palanga will be invited to come to the Palanga Sea Pier on March 31, at 1400hrs, where flags of Lithuania, European Union, and NATO will be solemnly hoisted and the Lithuanian Navy Band will perform. Everyone will also be able to familiarise with the activity of the NATO Force Integration Unit in Lithuania, view equipment, weapons and gear of NATO allies deployed in Lithuania and have a cup of military style tea.

The traditional and unique in our country run on the runway used by fighter aircraft, “Runway Run 2019”, held to mark anniversaries of Lithuania’s NATO accession, will take place on April 6 this year at the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai. Numerous soldiers of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania, and rotational forces of NATO allies, as well as running fans of different ages typically take part in the event.

Our world is changing and NATO is changing with it. But some things remain unchanged: our commitment to one another endures, giving us the strength to overcome our differences and rise to any challenge. Standing with unity and resolve in defence of our values, NATO will remain a pillar of stability in an uncertain world for the next generations.

Photo credit: A.Pliadis (MoD)

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