On 22 August 1994 the first Lithuanian peace support platoon LITPLA-1 of 32 soldiers led by Capt Artūras Chrapko left for Croatia. Just a quarter of a century has passed since that day – for this period precisely Lithuania has been participating in various international operations thus contributing to international efforts to create a more secure environment and stabilise situation in crisis-stricken regions.
“It should be emphasized that Lithuania deployed its first soldiers to an international operation merely four years after the reestablishment of independence, thus showing its aspiration to cooperate with allied countries and determination to share the responsibility for ensuring international security. Participation in international operations and joint multinational forces provides Lithuania with valuable experience while Lithuania is contributing to the strengthening of the European Union Common Security and Defence Policy, NATO collective defence, and military cooperation”, – says Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis.
The character and geography of operations involving Lithuania have expanded over these twenty five years. Threats arising in the southern neighbourhood of NATO – unstable states in the Near East, North Africa, increased migration flows, activities of terrorist organisations – have an adverse effect on the security environment. Therefore, in order to contribute to the stabilisation of the security situation, Lithuania increases its involvement in international operations, training and advisory missions in the Near East and Africa. Lithuanian soldiers are also increasingly participating in naval operations, contributing to the efforts of the world community to stop the illegal migration in the Mediterranean Sea and the international efforts to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Over 5.5 thousand Lithuanian soldiers have been deployed to international operations over the quarter of a century; most of them took part in several deployments. They not only gained experience in planning and conducting operations, working together with allies under various conditions, which is especially valuable in preparation to defend our country, but also became instructors themselves – they share this experience to those who need their expertise and knowledge. Regrettably, we lost two soldiers in these international missions: 1st Lieutenant Normundas Valteris who was killed by the explosion of an anti-tank mine in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 17 April 1996, and Sergeant Arūnas Jarmalavičius who was killed on 22 May 2008 during the attack on the camp of Lithuanian-led Ghowr Province Reconstruction Team of NATO International Security Assistance Force.
The majority of Lithuanian residents are in favour of Lithuania’s involvement in international operations. According to a public opinion poll conducted in December 2018, 72% of respondents support the idea that Lithuanian soldiers should be deployed to international operations if NATO allies request to. Also 68% of respondents support the idea that Lithuania should be more active in its contributions to the fight against international terrorism.
Recently Lithuania deploys soldiers to 11 international operations conducted by NATO, European Union, United Nations and other allied coalitions in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Indian Ocean. Such deployments include the military training mission in Ukraine, EU training mission in Mali, Central African Republic, NATO operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, EU operation in the Indian Ocean, etc.
Photo credits: MOD archives&soldiers personal archives