To date, Lithuania has not introduced a formal whole-of-government approach (WGA) system to deal with external conflicts and crisis. In other words, it has yet to map out a system for how to provide a coherent response to such events in a coordinated manner. However, this does not mean that Lithuania does not have any foreign policy coordination. In fact, a range of mechanisms and procedures that allow for coordination and cooperation among various governmental institutions and actors in crisis situations has been established and is in use. In addition, over the last two years, the government has started planning how to introduce what it refers to as an ‘integrated crisis coordination system’. Thus, it is evident that efforts are underway to move the country towards a more formalised WGA. That said, one must add that the plans developed so far are fairly general, and that the steps taken to date have only been incremental.
One can identify at least four reasons why Lithuania does not yet have a complete and coherent WGA system. First, the country’s foreign policy is coordinated through a range of formal, semi-formal and informal mechanisms, and they have been used when needed so far. However, having yet to encounter any major disaster or failure, there has not been any external pressure on the government to establish a more coherent system. Second, Lithuania is a small country and does not have a huge government apparatus of personnel working in foreign affairs and security policy. Most of the players involved know each other, the chains of command and hierarchy structures are not long, and it is usually not difficult to mobilise the responsible people in a crisis situation. Third, since Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, the idea that the country needs to have a coherent system to coordinate and manage crisis situations has always existed. But this idea has not become reality yet due to the absence of clear political leadership at a sufficiently high level of the government and owing to the lack of will and resources to implement such a system. What’s more, inter-institutional competition regarding which body should be in charge of such coordination has also compounded this lack of will. Over the last decade, the Office of the President’s dominant role in foreign policy matters has also rendered a formal system unnecessary, as the office has coordinated most of the needed responses informally and assumed what appears to be a dominant position. Finally, while Lithuania’s foreign policy is concentrated on the country’s national security and the Russian threat, most efforts related to security and defence policy focus on domestic crises and threats. For this reason, it is assumed that any serious response to an external crisis should be undertaken either by bigger states or through consultations in the context of the EU and/or NATO and using their fairly developed instruments.