Nuclear Matters: Lithuanian Security Culture in the Context of NATO Trends
Volume 16, Issue 1 (2018), pp. 35–58
Pub. online: 9 December 2018 Type: Article Open Access
9 December 2018
9 December 2018
This study traces and contrasts two parallel processes: the development of Lithuanian security culture since the country’s independence in 1990, and the evolution of NATO’s relation to nuclear weapons since the collapse of the Soviet Union. While Lithuania has historically been a vocal advocate for NATO shoring up defences vis-à-vis Russia, the nuclear nature of NATO’s deterrent has largely escaped the public discourse. Lacking historical traditions of open public discussion on matters of defence and security, the gap between Lithuania’s foreign and domestic discourse had only started to close in the aftermath of the 2014 Ukraine conflict. Narratives surrounding this watershed event also differ dramatically: for NATO it marked the end of the non-proliferation and arms reduction era, while Lithuania focused on the role of Russian militias and failed to take note of the changes in NATO’s nuclear stance. As NATO dusts off classical nuclear deterrent doctrines, posturing in the new geopolitical environment, the limited ability of Eastern European member states like Lithuania to adequately participate in these debates risks subsequently undermining the utility of the agreed concepts and eventually – chipping away at alliance unity. A Lithuanian case study offers insights into the security culture challenges common among NATO’s Eastern European members and partners – acknowledging and understanding them can help identify the building blocks needed to get more of these countries on-board as effective creators of a collective security environment.