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Scholz vows Germany's 'unwavering' support for Baltics

May 6, 2024

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Berlin is firm in its resolve to defend the Baltic states against Russian aggression. His comments came on a visit to Lithuania, where German troops are to deploy permanently.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meets German troops at Pabrade
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was meeting Bundeswehr soldiers taking part in NATO exercisesImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

While visiting German troops in Lithuania on Monday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was prepared to defend every centimeter of NATO-allied territory in the face of any new threats. 

The visit underscores the strategic importance of Lithuania, as well as the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Why is Scholz in Lithuania?

Scholz was visiting as Germany prepares to permanently deploy a Bundeswehr brigade of some 4,800 soldiers to support Lithuania's security. It is the first time that postwar Germany is to permanently station troops outside its borders.

"Germany stands unwaveringly on the side of the Baltic states," said Scholz, underlining that Berlin would adhere to its Article 5 commitments as part of NATO. 

The three NATO and EU Baltic countries are ardent supporters of Kyiv and fear they may one day be targeted by the Kremlin's military aggression. All thee Baltic nations share a border with Russia and were once part of the Soviet Union.

The Washington Treaty, the founding basis of NATO, stipulates in Article 5 that an armed attack on any member will be deemed an attack against all.

"This means that we protect each other and that every state can rely on us to protect every centimeter of their territory."

The Bundeswehr division will start to arrive in 2025 and is planned to reach full fighting readiness in 2027.

Scholz met Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the Pabrade Training Area, a major military facility near the Belarusian border. The troops he met were taking part in NATO exercises taking place there.

German soldiers deploy to Lithuania, prompt Russia warning

Nauseda welcomed the progress in the deployment of the German brigade, but stressed that it could be even faster.

What's the plan for the deployment?

Germany will deploy two combat troop battalions from the German states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia to form the core of the new Lithuania brigade.

A third battalion will be a multinational NATO battle unit as part of the alliance's Enhanced Forward Presence force.

A battalion is already in Lithuania, under German command, with rotating personnel from several other nations.

Lithuania has a border with the Russian Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad and Moscow's close ally Belarus.

Western military analysts in the West have long viewed the Suwalki Gap, the part of Lithuania's territory lying between the two, as a potential flashpoint area in any standoff between Russia and NATO.

rc/wmr (AFP, dpa)

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