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Allies Of Jim Mattis React To The Secretary Of Defense's Resignation


We're going to talk more now about the resignation of Defense Secretary Mattis, which wasn't just a shock within the Beltway but in capitals across the globe. He had been viewed as a calm and reassuring figure for many U.S. allies, especially in Europe. Lithuania in Eastern Europe is one of those allies. With us now is Lithuania's minister of national defense, Raimundas Karoblis. Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.


MARTIN: And I understand that you met with Secretary Mattis just last month here in Washington, D.C. And so I must ask - what went through your mind when you heard that he was resigning?

KAROBLIS: Yeah. Well, indeed, it is a sad news for me, personally, and for my colleagues in Europe. It is clear that Secretary Mattis is the real leader on the security and defense matters in - worldwide, in Europe. And he did, really, quite a lot during this two years, well, first of all, speaking about our region, about strengthening of deterrence and preparation for defense for our region. It's the recognition of Russia's credential threat. But he was really, too, leader in the NATO.

MARTIN: Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, upon hearing this news, called it a, quote, "morning of alarm in Europe." And he wrote that Secretary Mattis was the last strong bond across the Atlantic in the Trump administration. Do you and your other colleagues agree with that assessment?

KAROBLIS: Not at all. Indeed, as I said, the - Secretary Mattis did a lot. So, really, we see his resignation, which is really unfortunate. But, on the other hand, it's internal matter of the U.S. And we don't - from Lithuanian perspective, we don't see any risks. Well, first of all, I think President Trump, all the administration fell so the whole Congress is in our side.

On the other hand, we also expect the leadership of U.S. It's the only option in NATO. And Secretary Mattis is really important element here. But President Trump also had the leadership in last summit. And we expect that the initiatives, which we have launched, will continue, and NATO will continue as the strong defense alliance.

MARTIN: So, in just a few minutes we have left, I wanted to ask you about the other rather surprising news. The president is considering drawing down troops from Afghanistan. Lithuanian forces, as I understand it, are currently in Afghanistan.


MARTIN: Have you heard from any of your U.S. defense partners about this decision?

KAROBLIS: It was quite some surprise for us - in particular, Syria - regarding covering some - yes. In my view, NATO should show the strength here. And, so far, I think we showed that. But we need to find the balance between the political and military aspects. So from our side, our plans for next year, they are not changing. And then, of course, we will see what will be the military and political situation and decisions by NATO.

MARTIN: But I am interested to know how it sits with you that you were not consulted or that the other partners on the ground were not consulted about this.

KAROBLIS: Well, really, I don't know whether there were some consultations with other of partners. But, speaking about Syria, some of our troops are now deployed there. We are in Iraq and, well, we will continue as according to the plan.

MARTIN: That is Raimundas Karoblis, defense minister of Lithuania. Minister. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

KAROBLIS: Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you for the interest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.