VILNIUS, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is in Lithuania on an official visit, on Friday praised the country for dealing with security challenges, but emphasized the need to increase defense spending.
NATO said Friday that Lithuania, which joined the bloc in 2004, has shown leadership in stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan and in promoting energy security.
“I thank you for that leadership,” Rasmussen said after a meeting with President Dalia Grybauskaitė. “And I look forward to further leadership as we tackle the challenges which lie ahead, including the economic crisis.”
“We must continue to keep our defense strong and to keep NATO strong,” Rasmussen said. “Lithuania has recognized the need to increase defense spending: I urge you to carry through on that important commitment.”
NATO requirements stipulate that the alliance’s member countries should spend two percent of their GDP on defense. During the financial crisis, many countries were forced to cut funds allocated for the purpose. Last year, Lithuania’s military and defense spending only totaled 0.8 percent of its GDP.
The NATO chief also met Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and Defense Minister Juozas Olekas, and held talks with the parliamentary speaker and leaders.