After reviewing the efforts over the years to coordinate foreign and security policy in Lithuania both in crisis and normal situations, the first thing that needs to be mentioned is the fact that Lithuania is focused on its own national security, and that thinking about crisis management is oriented internally. Given these circumstances, the majority of the crisis-management mechanisms that exist or are in the planning stage mainly focus on domestic crises or threats. When asked directly if the existing or future mechanism for crisis management will be applicable to external crises, most officials working on such matters would say ‘yes’, though they would likely add that this dimension of crisis management is rarely the focus. Instead, EU and/or NATO institutions, mechanisms and procedures are usually considered to be more appropriate and suitable structures for implementing a comprehensive approach to external crises.
The external crises that Lithuania’s foreign policy establishment tends to react to and to try to produce a coordinated response to concern Russia and countries in the EU’s eastern ‘neighbourhood’ (e.g. Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine). For example, the crisis in Ukraine has definitely prompted a coordinated and systematic response in which a range of institutions have been involved, projects have been coordinated, and a related budget has been systemically and consistently allocated. Other external crises are usually considered ‘not for us to solve’, and the principles of either solidarity or non-involvement are invoked. Accordingly, for a long time, there was no need to develop a systematic WGA framework for managing external crises and preventing conflict. Thus, despite the efforts to establish an integrated crisis-management system, most crisis communication is now done via a mixture of formal, informal and ad hoc ways.
As some efforts to establish an integrated crisis-management system are underway and some previous experience in crisis management exists, it is possible to pinpoint several factors that would contribute to the success of a WGA system. The first – and, it seems, the most crucial – is the role of leadership. Leadership matters in at least two senses: in understanding the need and reasons for a WGA, and in showing the will to create such a system. The second factor is the ability to take advantage of the smallness of the country, which would result in a less complicated governmental structure, quicker decision-making and having a rather small number of people involved. The third necessary factor is a willingness among the relevant players to implement reforms. The current partly formal-partly informal system seems to be working, so there must be strong incentives for and enthusiasm about establishing a more formal and legalistic system (even if the backers of a more flexible or creative approach might view this as a hindrance). Finally, external pressure and/or vigorous recommendations (AKA nudging) from the EU and/or NATO could provide additional stimulus to Lithuania to start implementing a working WGA system. All in all, if at least all four of the factors listed above were present, it would not be overly presumptuous to claim that Lithuania would be on a much quicker road to having a formal WGA system in place that would enable coordinated, coherent and long-term responses to external conflicts and crises.