A Lithuanian delegation led by Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis visited the Georgia Institute of Technology on Friday, September 28, and held a roundtable discussion with the faculty and graduate students from The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. The event was co-hosted by the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies (CETS) and the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy (CISTP). Senator Sam Nunn joined us to welcome the Lithuanian delegation. Lithuania will be in the international spotlight in the second half of 2013 when it assumes the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union.
The focus of the discussion was on nuclear weapon and energy security issues. Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis expressed concerns about Russian tactical nuclear weapons. There have been legal attempts to regulate these tactical nuclear weapons which the Minister warned are both dangerous and can be easily moved around. This poses a security challenge to every nation in NATO and the Foreign Minister argued that measures should be taken to convince Russia to change her policy toward these tactical nuclear weapons.
Lithuania closed its last nuclear power plant at the end of 2009, which had been generating 70% of its electricity. Currently Lithuania imports most of its natural gas from Russia at a price significantly higher than that paid by other EU countries. Such a high energy dependence on Russia is a concern to Lithuania and the country has started building a new nuclear power plant. Lithuania sees the integration into the EU electric grid network and energy market as the key to increasing its energy security. Lithuania’s nuclear energy program has the full support from the European Atomic Energy Community and the country is working with partner European countries to develop its nuclear energy industry.
Lithuania also pays special attention to nuclear safety and security. With help from the United States it is starting a nuclear security center to fight nuclear trafficking and smuggling. Lithuania is concerned about the safety and security of nuclear power plants in neighboring countries such as Russia who shares very little information about their nuclear safety and security measures.
The Foreign Minister was very interested in Georgia Tech’s research in cybersecurity and the NSF Scholarship for Service (SfS) program that trains the next generation of cybersecurity experts. He said last week Lithuania’s cybersecurity czar visited the US. The Foreign Minister invited Georgia Tech researchers and students to visit Lithuania to learn about Lithuania’s extensive planning to secure their economy from cyber-threats. A number of major global companies have recently decided to locate their call and data centers in Lithuania, decisions in part motivated the companies say by what Lithuania has done to build a resilient cyber infrastructure.