Interview with Commandant of the Baltic Defence College Major General Vitalijus Vaikšnoras
1. Sir, this is so special day for the Baltic Defence College, how do you see the future of the College?
Future…, yes, starting to talk about future perhaps I should say a few words about the present and the present quality of the Baltic Defence College. Yes, this year we are celebrating 15th Anniversary of the Baltic Defence College – of this joint project, jointly managed and equally owned by three Baltic States. And I would say fifteen years old is very short period of time, so we are still… we I think we are still teenagers but I would say teenagers with the excellent record of achievements because during those fifteen years we created this excellent professional military educational institution and this year, this summer we will have almost or even more that one thousand graduates from 38 countries. And it shows attractiveness of the College as well. College is definitely a very unique college because it’s only college of professional military educational institution which provides education and I would say some training on both operational and strategic level, in English language, according to NATO standards and procedures. And this is the only regional, multinational staff college in the world. For the future definitely College is going to further develop and to keep model where we will be able to… I am saying to keep our eyes very open, widely open, to scan horizons, to analyse what kind of developments in the security and defence area are going on, are developing, what kind of new threats, new requirements for three Baltic States to analyse and to transform into educational process for the benefit of our future military and civilian leaders we educating in Baltic Defence College. And I would say definitely that our future is quite unpredictable, nobody has a crystal ball, nobody knows what kind of developments in a security and defence area we will face in… not few years but perhaps few months or few weeks. And recent events in Northern Africa, in Ukraine, in some other places are showing that we should be prepared to any contingency. So for us it is very important definitely to create the best educational environment here for our future leaders and to prepare them to deal with this future which is quite unpredictable, quite challenging and to feel much more comfortable with this uncertainty in the future.
2. How do you see this moment which is the most important challenges for the Baltic Defence College?
I believe our challenges are not unique and they are very common not only to professional military educational institutions but all institutions. Perhaps the biggest challenge as I said is unpredictability of the situation and shrinking budgets. Budgets are shrinking; definitely we will have less and less opportunities to send… I am talking about three Baltic States… to send students for long residential courses like we are having now for eleven months, for five months, so perhaps we should have more blended courses, more mix of residential and distance learning. As well technologies are changing, new threats are arriving, so we should be really in a good shape and we are in a good shape to reflect on all those very demanding challenges.
3. It was opinion that Baltic Defence College should go a little bit like civilian way or something like that, how do you think about this possibilities… or maybe risks?
If you ask me, I think we have a very good balance in the Baltic Defence College; it’s a very comprehensive institution, we have almost 50 per cent of military and 50 per cent of civilian personnel. When we are talking about our students, it’s rate is much less – we have 90 per cent of military personnel and 10 per cent of civilians. But I believe that future is not only for multi-nationality but as well for comprehensiveness, and we should keep civilians and military working together. In fact, what we are doing in our classrooms, we are teaching military and civilian personnel together. And it reflects real world situation outside of the walls of the College because if we would take a look on operations in Afghanistan, before in Iraq, now going on in Africa and some other places, in Balkans, you can see that military and civilian personnel is working together. Talking about subordination lines, I would say there are some examples, let’s talk about example in Finland, in Sweden, in Poland, in some other countries some professional military educational institutions are subordinated not only to Ministries of National Defence but as well to Ministries of Education and Research, and they are quite well developing together.
4. What can you say about maybe some other countries participating in this project?
For the moment I should mention that we have twelve nations working permanently working in the Baltic Defence College and I believe we have all in all twenty nations represented now in a Baltic Defence College when I am talking about students and staff or staff and students. So twelve nations – three Baltic nations, seven MOU nations and I believe for the moment we have two nations hired by… representatives of nations hired by the Baltic Defence College. In the future definitely talking about importance of keeping this multi-nationality, definitely we should involve even more nations. You cannot accommodate whole world but for the moment we have our priorities. And for the moment very high on the list of priorities is France and Canada. For good reasons cause France is… was before with the Baltic Defence College, Canada was as well with the Baltic Defence College, so we are working with them perhaps in a nearest future they will re-join us and it will definitely help to provide better quality for our educational process and for those nations to be heard in our region as well.
5. Last one question – which is your wish to your students and also to your colleagues here in the Baltic Defence College?
My wish for my colleagues and for my students… I would say very shortly –
work hard and have fun, work very hard for the benefit of the developments of our defence and security systems, and have fun – it should be balanced – that’s normally in a life!