Lithuania was once part of the Russian empire, but  after World War II, Lithuania was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union.

The fear of Russian aggression now drives Lithuanian diplomacy and military planning, which is based on a belief that Lithuania’s population of 2.8 million would be annihilated in a war. Therefore, Lithuania’s strategy is to deter Russia via a strong NATO and, if that is unsuccessful, fight with forces that are not a tripwire but sufficient for a forward defense. Lithuanian society understands this and therefore accepts conscription reforms.

Lithuania is learning from the war in Ukraine especially about how to set up civil defenses to protect people and infrastructure. National defense is no longer exclusively a military mission; now the people must help. Societal aspects of conflict have become important. Lithuania is trying to educate society on how to recognize and counter disinformation. It is also considering an educational program for schools that would include lessons on the Forest Brotherhood, the resistance fighters who waged an anti-Soviet guerrilla war after World War II. Parliament had increased funding for the paramilitary Rifleman’s Union for newer weapons and more training. All of this is based on lessons learned from Ukraine.

Lithuanians see the United States as their ultimate protector against Russia but not all are convinced of US resolve. Lithuania’s security depends on Russia changing and Russia will not change if the United States does not provide enough support for Ukraine to win. Without a Ukrainian victory (and Russian defeat) Lithuania will remain on the frontlines and will have to concentrate on national security vice domestic needs. Lithuania needs a changed Russia.

Lithuania’s government believes it does not have much time to increase its defenses. The narrative that Moscow is a paper tiger and no longer a threat is a dangerous one since Russia occupies as much Ukrainian territory as makes up all three Baltic states. None of the Baltic states have the strategic depth, population, and military capability of Ukraine. While Lithuanians overwhelmingly support NATO, Russia tries to exploit Polish (6.8 percent of the population) and Russian (5.1 percent) minorities to lessen this support. Both groups follow Russian state television and Russian internet sites and absorb their narratives. Lithuania is working with Poland to create a Polish language television channel in Vilnius to counteract this. Russia’s Sputnik television outlet in Lithuania, spends much time on the negative experiences of ethnic minorities. Lithuania is a small country trying to be an exemplary member of NATO because geography and demography puts it at the mercy of Russia.

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