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Germany to station 4,000 troops in Lithuania

June 26, 2023

Vilnius has repeatedly called on Berlin to deploy permanent combat troops to the country, which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

A German soldier seen in an armored vehicle during a military exercise at the Pabrade training ground in Lithuania.
NATO troops are in Lithuania for military exercises at present, Defense Minister Pistorius was scheduled to observe them during Monday's visitImage: DW

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius on Monday announced plans to permanently station 4,000 soldiers in NATO ally Lithuania to help secure the alliance's eastern flank. 

"Germany is ready to permanently station a robust brigade in Lithuania," Pistorius said during a visit to the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius. He said that facilities would first need to be built to accommodate the troops. 

Germany to station 4,000 troops in Lithuania

Germany already leads NATO's battlegroup in Lithuania, a reinforced battalion of some 1,000 troops. 

Vilnius has repeatedly called on Berlin to send combat troops in the country, which borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Germany pledged in June, 2022, to have a full brigade ready to defend Lithuania in case of an attack. 

Until now, however, Berlin had resisted permanently stationing most of the brigade in Lithuania, saying that the troops could be rapidly deployed from bases in Germany. 

Currently, only the brigade's command post with about 20 German soldiers are in Rukla, Lithuania. The rest remain at various locations within Germany. 

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Pistorius cites past German experience on NATO's eastern frontier

Pistorius explained the altered German stance in part by citing the country's own past, saying that until the end of the Cold War, it was the former West Germany situated on NATO's eastern border to what was then the Iron Curtain. 

"We were the ones who could always rely on NATO partners standing by our side in an emergency and stepping in and fighting with us for our freedom and security in Germany," Pistorius said.

Nowadays, Pistorius said, it was Poland and the Baltic states that were exposed as West Germany once was: "And we as the Federal Republic of Germany commit ourselves explicitly to our responsibility and our obligation, as a NATO member state and as the largest economy in Europe, to stand up for the protection of the eastern flank," he said. 

NATO maneuvers in Lithuania before summit

Pistorius is in Lithuania to observe a joint NATO exercise labeled "Griffin Storm" between the German and Lithuanian armies. Germany transferred 1,000 soldiers and 300 tanks of the 41st Mechanized Infantry Brigade "Vorpommern" to Lithuania to take part in the drills, which will focus on defending NATO's eastern flank. 

This is the third time such exercises are being conducted. The current maneuvers are scheduled to last until July 7.

The training area in Pabrade is less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Kaliningrad. Pistorius will join NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council, NATO's most important decision-making body, in observing the maneuvers. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas will also be present.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius and his Lithuanian counterpart, Arvyday Anusauskas, shaking hands at a podium at a press conference. June 26, 2023, Vilnius.
Pistorius and Anusauskas held a joint press conferenceImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

The Lithuanian capital will also host next month's NATO leaders' summit, less than a week after the exercises end. 

Earlier on Monday, Nauseda said the aborted Wagner mutiny in Russia demonstrated the instability of the Kremlin regime that could affect the security of the region. 

"The establishment of the Wagner group in Belarus may become an additional factor," he said. 

dh, msh/nm (dpa, Reuters)