Lithuania's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Lithuania's membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Key NATO-related initiatives according to the Programme of the Eighteenth Government of the Republic of Lithuania:

  • Enhance NATO deterrence and defence measures in the region.
  • Strengthen bilateral defence cooperation relations with NATO allies, especially US, Poland, Baltic and Nordic states.
  • Support EU‘s Common Security and Defence Policy initiatives that complement NATO and are open to non-EU NATO members.
  • Continue participation in NATO operations and missions.
  • Actively promote NATO‘s Open Door policy and support Ukraine and Georgia‘s euroatlantic aspirations.

On 29 March 2014 Lithuania celebrated 10 years of NATO membership. On this occasion international Vilnius conference “NATO Open Door: Ten Years After the "Big Bang" took place on 3-4 April 2014. Main topic of the conference was NATO Open Door policy. Participants of the conference assessed NATO enlargement and its implications to international security, discussed NATO Open Door policy developments and prospects, as well as NATO vision for the future and partners' role in it.

On 29 March 2019 Lithuania celebrated 15th NATO membership anniversary. On 4 April 2019 NATO marked 70th anniversary with Washington meeting of Foreign Ministers. The foundations of NATO were officially laid down on 4 April 1949 with the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty, more popularly known as the Washington Treaty.

Legal framework related to Lithuania’s NATO membership

Lithuania’s membership in NATO is based upon the provision set forth in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania: “to guarantee the security and independence of the country, welfare of the citizens and their fundamental rights and liberties”. The Law on the Basics of National Security provides that the State ensures national security via integration into NATO and as a full-fledged member actively taking part in organization‘s work, also that Lithuania‘s membership in NATO is aimed at improving confidence, stability and security in the region and in all of Europe.

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania approved the newly revised National Security Strategy on 16 December 2021. It emphasizes that the international system is becoming increasingly difficult to predict due to global and regional processes that have emerged in recent years. The Republic of Lithuania adheres to NATO and the EU’s indivisible security policy: a threat to the security of a NATO or EU member state is also a threat to the national security of the Republic of Lithuania. The tasks of implementing the national security policy comprise three pillars: state defense, resilience of the state and its citizens, and international security systems that are in line with the interests of the Republic of Lithuania.

On 8 May 2012, parliamentary parties of Lithuania signed the Agreement on Defence Policy for 2012-2016, thus ensuring the continuity of foreign and security policy and affirming the commitment for the North Atlantic Alliance to gradually increase defence budget up to 2 percent of national GDP. On 29March 2014, political parties of Lithuania signed the new Agreement on Foreign, Security and Defence Policy Strategic Guidelines for 2014-2020, wherein among other obligations parties agreed to annually increase defence budget to no less than 2 percent of GDP by 2020. On 15 November 2016, the newly elected Seimas adopted the resolution, which ensured the continuity and consistency of foreign, defence and security policy of the Republic of Lithuania for 2016-2020 and stated the pledge to increase funding of national defence, so that at least 2 percent of GDP would be allocated in 2018 at the latest. On 10 September 2018 Lithuanian parliamentary parties have signed an Agreement on the guidelines for the Lithuanian defence which makes a commitment to increase defence funding in a consistent manner: to allocate at least 2% GDP, to follow the principle of the annual increase of appropriations for the national defence and to achieve at least 2.5% GDP no later than by 2030. The aim to reach 2.5% defence spending is included in the Programme of the Seventeenth Government of the Republic of Lithuania. In response to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine, political parties represented in the Seimas signed an agreement on strengthening Lithuania’s national security and defense strengthening in the near future (https://www.lrs.lt/sip/portal.show?p_r=35403&p_k=1&p_t=281847) on 15 July 2022. All political parties commit to spend 2.5 % of GDP on defense and to link further defense funding to the needs of the national defense system and the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The aim is to increase the number of citizens trained to defend the country and to accelerate the formation of an active reserve. This agreement will remain in force until 2030.

Lithuania’s membership in the Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, signed and ratified by Lithuania on 10 March 2004.

Lithuania strengthened its NATO membership by ratifying the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which regulates deployment of one of the NATO member’s forces in other member’s territory. Lithuania signed the 1951 Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, National Representatives and International Staff, and the 1964 Agreement for Exchange of Atomic Information. According to these legal instruments (obligations), Lithuania is a full-fledged NATO member, assuming all the obligations and security guarantees.

Lithuania on its way to NATO (chronology)

17 November 1990

The Baltic Information Bureau opened in Brussels (without international community’s recognition of Lithuania’s recently restored independence Lithuania could not have official diplomatic representations and these representations were being established unofficially, under cover of “information bureaus”). Rimantas Morkvėnas, member of newly re-established Lithuanian diplomatic service, started working at the Bureau as representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Belgium and the European Community. He only had the official authorisation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Algirdas Saudargas – the official diplomatic accreditation at that time was impossible. However, the Information Bureau in Brussels was exercising diplomatic functions; its activities were devoted to international relations and to relations with the European Community and NATO. The Information Bureau in Brussels functioned until the recognition of Lithuania’s independence, when it was reorganized into a diplomatic representation.

31 May 1991

For the first time in history, an unofficial visit of the Lithuanian delegation, headed by the Chairman of the Supreme Council, Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, to NATO headquarters took place. As the arrangement of an official meeting was impossible at that time, the Danish Mission at NATO mediated the visit of the Lithuanian delegation.

20 December 1991

Lithuania together with Latvia and Estonia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council.

13 January 1992

Ambassador Adolfas Venskus was appointed as the official representative of Lithuania for relations with the European Community and for NATO issues.

5 October 1993

Political parties of Lithuania addressed the President regarding the integration of the Republic of Lithuania into NATO.

29 November 1993

Opposition parties of the Seimas concluded a memorandum for the key principles of Lithuania’s national foreign policy.

4 January 1994

President of the Republic of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas sent a letter to NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner expressing the desire of Lithuania to become a NATO member. The letter stated the position based on the agreement on Lithuania’s aspiration to become a member of NATO signed by all parliamentary parties.

27 January 1994

Lithuania joined the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme.

19 December 1996

Law on the Basics of National Security was adopted, which defined integration into the European and transatlantic structures as the priority goal of the Lithuanian foreign policy and the measure for safeguarding national security.

8-9 July 1997

At the NATO Summit in Madrid Baltic states’ progress in ensuring security and stability in the Baltic region was noted.

1 August 1997

Lithuanian Mission to NATO was established.

9 October 1997

Former Minister of National Defence Linas Linkevičius was appointed as the Ambassador of Lithuania to the Western European Union (WEU) and NATO.

23-25 April 1999

At the NATO Summit in Washington efforts and progress of Lithuania in aspiring for NATO membership were acknowledged.  NATO leaders launched the Membership Action Plan, designed to assist Lithuania in preparation for NATO membership.

18-19 May 2000

Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the nine NATO aspirant countries was held in Vilnius, during which the Vilnius Statement was made, undertaking the commitment to the creation of a Europe, whole and free in an alliance, including the countries of Europe, the United States and Canada. As a result of this meeting, the Vilnius Ten group was established after the joining of Croatia.

17 November 2000

President of the Republic of Lithuania appointed Ambassador Giedrius Čekuolis as the Chief Coordinator of Lithuanian integration to NATO.

25 January 2001

President of the Republic of Lithuania appointed Gintė Damušis as the Ambassador of Lithuania to NATO and WEU.

27-31 May 2001

NATO Parliamentary Assembly held its spring session in Vilnius.

21 November 2002

In Prague, seven NATO candidate countries – Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – were invited to start accession negotiations with NATO.

26 March 2003

Protocols to the Washington Treaty on the accession of the invited candidate countries were signed.

10 March 2004

The Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania ratified the Washington Treaty.

29 March 2004

Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas, during his visit in Washington, together with his Bulgarian, Estonian, Latvian, Romanian, Slovakian and Slovenian counterparts presented to the U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ratification instruments of the Washington Treaty. On this historic day, Lithuania became a full-fledged member of NATO.

29 March 2004

NATO launched the Baltic Air Policing Mission – a 24/7 policing of the airspace of the Baltic States conducted on a three-month rotation from the air force base in Zokniai.

2 April 2004

Lithuanian flag was raised at NATO headquarters in Brussels. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania Antanas Valionis together with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia attended the official ceremony and the celebratory session of the North Atlantic Council.

NATO activities and Lithuania’s participation

22 February 2005 At the NATO Brussels Summit, all 26 Allies agreed to contribute to NATO’s assistance to Iraq, strengthen political dialogue in the Alliance and expand its operation in Afghanistan. NATO leaders also expressed support for Ukraine’s reform agenda and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the country.
20-21 April 2005 Informal meeting of ministers of foreign affairs of NATO took place in Vilnius.
28-29 November 2006 Core principles were underlined at the NATO Riga Summit: NATO remained the most important transatlantic security and defence institution, security issues were settled by the US and Europe, collective security principle was emphasized. Energy security issues were included in NATO agenda, Comprehensive Political Guidance was approved and announced, Alliance’s Open Door policy was confirmed. Western Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro) were invited to join PfP programs. The decision was made to broaden NATO partnerships and make them more flexible.
7-8 February 2008 Informal meeting of defence ministers of NATO took place in Vilnius.
2-4 April 2008 Croatia and Albania were invited to join the Alliance during the NATO Summit in Bucharest. Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro were offered to start cooperation in the framework of Intensified Dialogue. Bucharest declaration states that Georgia and Ukraine would become NATO members.
3-4 April 2009 Albania and Croatia became NATO members at the Strasbourg/Kehl Summit. NATO members decided to draft the new Strategic Concept.
19 November 2010 New Strategic Concept was adopted at the Lisbon Summit. As collective defence was established as one of the core tasks of NATO, Strategic Concept also foresaw NATO’s role in crisis management and in ensuring international security through partnership with relevant countries and other international organisations. Concrete measures were outlined to help NATO fulfill its core tasks: building of new capabilities in missile, cyber and energy security defence, emphasis on practical solutions of securing states’ territories, strengthening of crisis management capabilities. Reforms of NATO headquarters, commands and agencies were to continue.
20-21 May 2012 Situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan, implications of financial crisis were discussed at the Chicago Summit. The most important result for Lithuania – establishment of the permanent NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic States. Chicago Summit declaration emphasized the importance of military exercises as a measure for allies’ fast response to challenges. NATO also announced the development of the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) capability. Another important decision – acknowledgment of the capacity to contribute to energy security. Declaration included reference to NATO-accredited Energy Security Centre of Excellence in Lithuania (the Centre was launched on 1 January 2013).
4-5 September 2014 Agenda of the NATO Wales Summit (Newport) included such issues as threats to security (Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, armed clashes in Iraq and conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa) and NATO’s response to these challenges. The Summit assessed developments in Ukraine and expressed support to Ukrainian government, concluded peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan and discussed further plans of NATO presence in this country. New opportunities of cooperation with partners in the framework of such initiatives as Defence Capacity Building and Interoperability Initiative were discussed. NATO aspirants’ (Georgia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia) progress was assessed and package of cooperation tools for Georgia was approved.
3 September 2015 NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė inaugurated a new multinational NATO headquarters in Vilnius – NATO Force Integration Unit (NFIU). Decision on 6 NFIUs in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania was taken at the NATO Wales Summit in 2015. Establishment of NFIUs is one of the NATO’s Adaptation Measures with aim to respond to the threats emanating from Alliance’s eastern and southern neighbourhood. Task of NFIU is to improve cooperation and coordination between NATO and national forces, and prepare and support exercises and any deployments needed.
23-24 March 2016 North Atlantic Council (NAC) – NATO’s main decision making body – visited Lithuania. On 23 March members of NAC attended working dinner with the participation of Lithuania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius and Minister of Defence Juozas Olekas and discussed NATO’s adaptation to the changed security environment. On 24 March NAC met with the President of the Republic of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė and exchanged views on security situation in the region. NAC members also visited the Mechanized Infantry Brigade "Iron Wolf", where the Commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces Maj. Gen. Almantas Leika and the Commander of U.S. Army Europe Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges made a presentation about the possibilities of implementation of NATO defence ministers’ decision on deployment of the Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania.
8-9 July 2016 2016 NATO Warsaw Summit agenda was based on two key pillars: protecting member countries through modern deterrence and defence; and projecting stability beyond NATO borders. The Allies welcomed the implementation of the Readiness Action Plan, adopted at the Wales Summit in 2014. The Allies also agreed to enhance the forward presence of NATO forces in the eastern part of the Alliance by deploying multinational battalions in the Baltic states and Poland in 2017. Each battalion is  led by a framework nation: in Lithuania – by Germany, in Estonia – by UK, in Latvia – by Canada, in Poland – by the U.S. NATO member states reaffirmed that the decision to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between NATO and Russia remains in place. Political channels of communication, however, remain open (first NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting in two years took place on 20 April 2016). Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, issues related to military activities, transparency and risk reduction should remain in the agenda of this political dialogue. At the same time, Alliance will continue to strengthen defence and deterrence in the most vulnerable flank. Against the background of an increasingly unstable, global security environment, NATO agreed to enhance efforts in projecting stability in its neighbourhood. Member states endorsed the decision to increase political and practical support to Ukraine, Georgia and other partners, to enhance the Alliance's contribution to the efforts of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL by providing direct NATO AWACS support, to continue assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan. Joint EU-NATO declaration was signed at the Summit. It outlined joint efforts in countering hybrid threats, strengthening cyber security, coordinating exercises, fighting illegal migration in the Mediterranean, building the defence and security capacity and fostering the resilience of partners in the East and the South.
7 February 2017 Allies implemented the 2016 Warsaw Summit decisions to establish NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, consisting of four multinational battalion-size battlegroups. NATO enhanced forward presence battalion in Lithuania is led by framework nation Germany. President of Lithuania H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė together with Ms. Ursula von der Leyen, Minister of Defence of Germany, welcomed the troops. At peacetime NATO multinational battalion battle group trains together with Lithuanian forces, just like it would defend Lithuania alongside national forces and additionally deployed reinforcement in case of a crisis. Battlegroup is based in Rukla and falls under command of the Mechanized Infantry Brigade “Iron Wolf” of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
24-25 May 2017 2017 Brussels NATO summit highlighted the importance of a transatlantic unity and solidarity. The main issues were the fight against terrorism, solidarity of the burden sharing. NATO joined the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Allies committed to develop plans for meeting their burden sharing commitments, including defence spending, development of the necessary capabilities and contribution to NATO missions and operations. Montenegro also attended the Summit and on 5 June 2017 became the 29th member of the Alliance. Summit was held at the new NATO Headquarters in Brussels.
11-12 July 2018 2018 NATO Brussels Summit focused on the solidarity in burden sharing. It was highlighted that all 29 Allies are increasing their defence spending and that all have taken commitments to develop capabilities. Allies agreed to launch the NATO Readiness Initiative that foresees that 30 major naval combatants, 30 heavy or medium maneuver battalions, and 30 kinetic air squadrons, with enabling forces, will be available at 30 days’ readiness or less. Allies also agreed on a Joint Air Power Strategy, to strengthen naval forces, to establish Counter Hybrid Support Teams, took decisions to adapt and strengthen the NATO Command Structure, endorsed a Package on the South which includes a range of political and practical cooperation initiatives towards a more strategic, focused, and coherent approach to the Middle East and North Africa, launched a non-combat training and capacity building mission in Iraq, approved a new defence capacity building assistance measures designed to help the Tunisian authorities, expanded assistance for Jordan. Allies invited North Macedonia to begin accession talks to join NATO.
3-4 April 2019

The annual NATO ministerial meeting was held on 3-4 April in Washington D.C. where the North Atlantic Treaty was signed 70 year ago, in 1949.

During the meeting the ministers adopted a package of measures intended for ensuring security in the Black Sea region. It involves additional allied actions and strengthening of appropriate capacities as well as measures for stronger support for Georgia and Ukraine.

The meeting also focused on the violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Last year NATO declared that Russia developed and deployed the rocket system 9M729 and thus violated the INF Treaty. The USA and other allies have been calling on Russia to take necessary actions to save the Treaty for six years, however, to date, Moscow has failed to provide any credible answers to concerns expressed by NATO states. 

3-4 December 2019 NATO Leaders met on 3-4 December 2020 in London, the United Kingdom. They reaffirmed the importance of the transatlantic link and adopted the political declaration emphasizing solidarity of the Allies and the commitment as enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that an attack against one Ally shall be considered an attack against all Allies. London Declaration states that Russia's aggressive actions threaten Euro-Atlantic security. Allies noted an unprecedented progress in NATO-EU cooperation. For the first time, China’s growing influence and international policies were identified as presenting both opportunities and challenges that Allies needed to address together as an Alliance.

14 June 2021

At the Summit in Brussels, NATO leaders endorsed the NATO 2030 agenda that sets a higher level of ambition and provides a clear direction for the Alliance's future political and military adaptation. They took decisions to strengthen political consultations, deterrence and defense, to increase resilience, to maintain NATO's technological edge, to preserve the rules-based international order, to provide capacity-building and expert training support to partners, to address the security impact of climate change, and to develop a new strategic concept.

25 February 2022

An extraordinary virtual summit was held to discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine. The teleconference condemned Russia's wide-ranging invasion of Ukraine of 24 February 2022 in the strongest possible terms, affirmed solidarity with Ukraine, activated NATO’s defense plans and announced that the Alliance was strengthening its deterrence and defense posture.

27-30 June 2022

The Madrid Summit Declaration set a new baseline for NATO’s deterrence and defense posture. Allies committed to deploying additional robust in-place combat-ready forces on NATO’s eastern flank, to be scaled up from the existing battle groups to brigade-size units. NATO leaders adopted a new strategic concept, branding Russia as 'the most significant and direct threat to Allies'. The document described China as a challenge to NATO's 'interests, security and values'. During the summit, Finland and Sweden were invited to join the Alliance. NATO leaders also approved new support packages for Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Moldova. The next NATO summit will take place in 2023 in Vilnius.