I am honored to be here with the Chief of Defense, Lieutenant General Zukas. Sir, thank you for a wonderful visit. We truly appreciate the strong Alliance between our nations and look forward to future opportunities to work together.
My visit here continues to affirm our commitment to security and stability throughout the vital Baltic region. Our forces are present here to support a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.
I appreciate the opportunity to work with the highly-competent and professional Lithuanian military. I am encouraged by the Lithuanian leadership on their continued efforts to meet the 2% GDP defense goal, and their efforts to raise the defense goal to 2.07 % in 2018.
Thousands of U.S. service members will rotate through the Baltic region participating in exercises and training events to continue building close ties with our counterparts. We are committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with our Allies to ensure the independence, sovereignty, and security of Lithuania. Our nations have made great improvements in our military interoperability as a result of several successful air, land and sea exercises.
In February, a company from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division’s deployed Armored Brigade Combat Team replaced the 173rd Airborne Brigade troops and will remain in place alongside the first German, Belgian and Dutch eFP units until late May.
U.S. units will continue to rotate through the Baltics to participate in exercises and joint training events. In June and July 2017, the 2nd Combined Arms Battalion of the Minnesota National Guard will rotate to Lithuania to participate in the Saber Strike joint exercise. In September 2017, the 173 Airborne Brigade plans to send a battalion task force to the Baltic states.
I am confident that the peace, security and stability of the Baltic region is on the minds of many throughout the world. This is seen through our commitment of resources and rotational forces, as well as the NATO eFP deployments in the future.
Once the eFP is fully operational in Europe, there will be a substantial increase in security and troops in the Baltic region.
NATO’s eFP is part of the overall deterrence posture, demonstrating that even a limited attack on, or incursion into, NATO territory will be met by a united force. We are grateful to our Allies for stepping up and working with the United States to do more to ensure Europe’s security through the eFP initiative.
To support Lithuania and its neighboring countries, the United States created Operation Atlantic Resolve to provide new rotational forces to the continent; improved infrastructure; enhanced prepositioning of U.S. equipment; and intensified efforts to build partner capacity in Europe.
The U.S. commitment remains strong to the Trans-Atlantic alliance. The priority is to maintain ready and postured forces on land, in the air and at sea. Forces will bring the full weight of the U.S. Joint team with their deployment.
NATO eFP and U.S. rotational forces are a response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and malign influence. As always we will watch this posture and exercises and take appropriate steps to deter and defend.
Our European Alliance is the bedrock of our success to deter potential adversaries. We stand with Lithuania in supporting peace in the Baltics.
Again, thank you sir, and I am ready for questions.