Presidents Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania and Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, accompanied by massive civilian and military delegations, witnessed yesterday the inaugural ceremony of the Lithuanian-Polish joint battalion, LitPolBat. The two countries’ defense ministers, Ceslovas Stankevicius and Janusz Onyszkiewicz, signed the relevant intergovernmental agreement the same day.
The decision to create the unit was made in 1996 and brought to fruition with assistance from the United States and several NATO countries. The unit will be based on either side of the common border, financed by the two countries on a proportionate basis and commanded alternately by Polish and Lithuanian officers. LitPolBat is regarded as a means to facilitate the planned upgrade of Lithuanian forces until they meet NATO standards. Vilnius and Warsaw, moreover, regard the joint unit as a symbol of their evolving relationship, which they described as “special” and “privileged.”
Yesterday’s event also occasioned a reaffirmation of Poland’s intention to function as “Lithuania’s advocate” in NATO and European Union bodies. Poland also operates a joint battalion with its other eastern neighbor, Ukraine, whose President Leonid Kuchma arrived yesterday on a visit to Lithuania (BNS, April 14).
LUKASHENKA IN BELGRADE.