Joint Press Conference with Secretary Mattis and President Grybauskaite in Vilnius, Lithuania
PRESIDENT DALIA GRYBAUSKAITE: So we welcome, of course, the defense secretary in Lithuania, as not only symbolic gesture, but a most important gesture for all our region, which is (inaudible) as a grantor of our security.
(THROUGH TRANSLATOR): So I have just welcomed the secretary of defense in Lithuania. His visit to our region and Lithuania means that the United States as a key ally of NATO, and also on a bilateral basis supports -- understands the challenges of security facing our region.
Therefore, it was a long-awaited visit. We discussed the possibilities of the United States (inaudible) on a bilateral basis to the West that may rise (inaudible) neighborhood. We also discussed the challenges in the upcoming NATO summit and the (inaudible) future reform of NATO because the challenges are changing, NATO has to adapt to the situation, and change together, especially when we think about the speed of the decision-making process, about the places of deployment of troops.
When we think about cooperation and also additional security measures, but (inaudible) the Baltic region because the Baltic region is the furthermost east flank of NATO. So what measures of deterrence are necessary were also discussed.
I see a great professional in the case of the U.S. secretary of state (sic). He's a good friend of Lithuania and the Baltic states. He will understand the challenges facing us, the threats facing us. We can trust him.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JIM MATTIS: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Madam President, thank you very much for the warm welcome that you have given, and for taking the time to meet today. I am grateful for the opportunity to gain your perspective on the situation that we face here in Lithuania and in the whole Baltic region.
Our two countries, the United States and Lithuania, stand together in defense of democratic values. We continued to recognize Lithuania as a sovereign political entity during the Soviet occupation. We celebrated when your parliament voted to restore your country's independence in 1991. And we welcomed your NATO accession as you joined other democracies in defense of our shared values.
Marking that occasion, President Bush said, and I quote here about NATO's new members, that you "brought moral clarity to the purposes of the alliance, moral clarity, knowing that when great democracies fail to confront danger, far worse peril can follow."
So now united by our trans-Atlantic bond, I believe that you who have withstood oppression can most keenly savor freedom and never taking it for granted or looking away when it is threatened.
Even in the face of a neighbor next door shredding trust, Lithuania has nonetheless contributed to the NATO-led mission far away in Afghanistan. And it has continued to provide capable trainers for the counter-ISIS mission in Iraq.
I believe that 2014 was a watershed year here in Europe. Lithuania, your Baltic neighbors, and the NATO alliance faced dangers from terrorism and aggression, cyber attacks and more. In response, we must adapt NATO's stance and affirm our commitment to common defense.
Have no doubt, we stand with you, united in a common cause. NATO stands visible and indivisible in the face of any threat to sovereignty, any threat to international law or any threat to international order.
The United States' commitment to the security guarantee of NATO's Article 5 remains ironclad. I comment Lithuania for your commitment to raise defense spending above the two percent of gross domestic product by next year. Your recognition of the threat and of our treaty obligation under NATO Article 3 to maintain our individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack heartens the American people. And you rightly stand as an example for all NATO allies.
Later today, I will take part in a ministerial meeting with my Baltic MOD counterparts, and that's where I will reiterate our strong commitment to our Baltic allies' defense. I will also visit Pabrade Training Area, and there I will meet with the NATO battle group, which is a stabilizing force in this region.
These allied forces are deployed in Lithuania to demonstrate our solidarity and our determination to defend NATO territory against any aggression. We Americans joined the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada as NATO framework nations, leading varied and diverse allied defensive forces deployed in Eastern Europe, reinforcing our deterrent posture while our diplomats are open to engaging with a Russia that respects international law.
NATO's purely defensive stance is designed to assure allied sovereignty by preventing miscalculation and buying time for our diplomats to restore mutual respect. We stand together in defense of freedom, buttressing the alliance. In the words of a NATO minister of defense, together, we will confront any aggression with determination, deterrence and purpose.
NATO's hard power in a defensive orientation is our ticket to peace, prosperity and tranquility, just as it has been throughout its decades of service. Again, Madam President, thank you very much.
PRES. GRYBAUSKAITE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
And now a question for journalists. Baltic News Service, please.
Q: (inaudible) -- I'm a journalist with the Baltic News Service, and I'm -- I have a question for Mr. Secretary of Defense.
Lithuanian officials have repeatedly said they were seeking bigger American role in the Baltic air defense system. Is the administration considering deploying Patriot missiles or other -- other tools to address the air defense gap in the Baltic States? Thank you.
SEC. MATTIS: Yes, the United States is one of the -- the allied nations, one of the NATO nations. It stands by Lithuania, stands by all the Baltic nations. We'll make those decisions in consultation with the Lithuanian government and we'll work together.
We are here in a purely defensive stance. Everyone knows this is not an offensive capability. And for anyone who says otherwise, I would just say I have too much respect for the Russian army to think that they actually believe there's any offensive capability.
They know, and the world knows, this is defensive and we'll deploy only defensive systems to make certain that sovereignty is respected.
PRES. GRYBAUSKAITE: And Reuters.
Q: Hi, Mr. Secretary, thanks again.
Just following up, are you concerned, then, about Russia's deployment of Iskander missiles in -- in Kaliningrad and -- and would you keep a Patriot battery here in the Baltic states to guard against any miscalculation through Russia's Zapad exercises in September?
And -- and Madam President, do you think that there should be a Patriot battery brought -- brought here to the Baltics? Thank you.
SEC. MATTIS: The -- the specific systems that we bring are those that we determine necessary. I think any buildup of Russian combat power in an area where they know and we all know they are not threatened by anything that we are doing in Lithuania or elsewhere in the democratic countries -- any kind of build up like that is simply destabilizing. I'd just leave it at that.
PRES. GRYBAUSKAITE: So, I can answer to your question that we need all necessary means for defense and for deterrence. And that's what we'll decide together with Americans, how much and what we would like to have on our territory.
STAFF: Thank you, (inaudible).