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Lithuania inks its largest ever military deal

August 22, 2016

The 386 million euro purchase of 88 armored fighting vehicles is Lithuania 's largest military purchase ever. The deal comes amid growing tensions in the aftermath of Russia's annexation of the Crimea in 2014.

A German Bundeswehr NH90 helicopter flies past a Boxer armoured fighting vehicle .
Image: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Lithuania announced its biggest ever arms purchase on Monday amid continued fears of Russian aggression.

The tiny Baltic country, with Russia on its doorstep, has agreed to purchase 88 Boxer armored fighting vehicles from the German-Dutch consortium ARTEC for 386 million euros ($437 million). They come equipped with Israeli-made turrets.

Defense Minister Juozas Olekas defended the purchase after inking the deal.

"It's a long-term investment into national defense and also a signal that Lithuania takes its security and investing in it seriously," Olekas said.

The first delivery of vehicles is expected to reach Lithuania in 2017 and the rest by 2021.

Lithuania, with a population of just 2.9 million, is the largest of the three Baltic states, which also include Latvia and Estonia.

All three broke free from Moscow in 1991 the Soviet empire collapsed.

Doubling defense budget

Lithuania's defense budget has more than doubled since it spent $300 million (265 million euros) in 2013. It is spending nearly $650 million this year and has earmarked $725 million for 2017. The figure represents 1.79 percent of economic output.

The increase began to spike in 2014 after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine. Alarmed by the land-grab, Lithuania also reintroduced limited conscription last year.

German soldiers sit on a armoured fighting vehicle Boxer during a presentation of German army.
German soldiers on a Boxer armoured fighting vehicle during a presentation of the German armyImage: Reuters

Despite these efforts, Lithuania remains largely dependent on its NATO partners to ensure its security.

Germany agreed to lead a multinational battalion in Lithuania last month after NATO approved a troop increase for the Baltic states and Poland to reassure alliance members once ruled by Moscow.

The Kremlin insists it doesn't have any territorial ambitions in the region and accuses NATO of trying to encircle Russia.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had also come under fire from pacifists over a near doubling of the country's arms exports since 2014 when the country exported 4 billion euros worth of military equipment.

The latest figures for 2016 project sales of $7.8 billion, making Germany the third largest arms exporter in the world, after the United States and Russia. But German sales are a fraction of the two front runners - about a quarter of the sales from Russia.

bik/jil (AFP, ARD, DW)