German, Belgian NATO troops arrive in Lithuania
The first batch of Belgian and German soldiers have arrived in Lithuania as part of a NATO troop deployment allegedly aimed at building up a deterrence force against Russia.
The German officers arrived in the capital city Vilnius on Tuesday to organize for the upcoming deployment of a 1,200-strong battalion, which will include troops from several other NATO members.
Lithuania’s military spokesman Andrius Dilda noted that around 30 Belgian forces had arrived at an airport in the country’s western regions, and that a ship carrying military equipment had docked at the port city of Klaipeda.
“The deployment of a well-armed battalion makes a snap intervention scenario less likely. Russia will need to calculate how Washington, London or Berlin would react,” said Vilnius University analyst Deividas Slekys.
Apart from Lithuania’s German-led battalion, Canada is set to lead a multi-national battalion in Latvia, the UK in Estonia, and the US in Poland, where thousands of US troops arrived earlier in the month.
The US and its allies have been at odds with Moscow since the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, controlled by Ukraine, joined Russia following a referendum in March 2014.
Western countries have been fearful of a repeat of that scenario in other countries, and have sought to step up their military presence in Eastern Europe.
NATO, for its part, has suspended all practical cooperation with Moscow and started to deploy troops and weaponry to Baltic States—Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia—near Russia since then.
Moscow is seriously wary of the US-led alliance’s military buildup near its borders. In response to the aggressive measures, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity, deploying nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland and Lithuania.