Germany will send up to 350 more soldiers to Lithuania to help bolster the NATO alliance’s eastern flank, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said Monday, amid fears that Russia could invade Ukraine.
“We are therefore strengthening our troop contribution on NATO’s eastern flank and sending a clear sign of our resolve to our allies,” Lambrecht said, adding that the soldiers will be deployed “within a few days.”
The message to allies is “you can rely on us,” said the minister.
Germany currently has 500 soldiers stationed as part of NATO forces in Lithuania.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas called the additional troops “an important signal of attention to our region.”
“If (Russian President Vladimir) Putin thought he will divide the alliance by raising ultimatums, this decision shows us that NATO remains an organization which is based on solidarity,” he said.
“This is a very adequate reaction to Russia’s behavior near the borders of Ukraine and in Belarus. We have not seen such a concentration of troops in the entire post-Soviet period.”
Military Exercise in Belarus
Lithuania’s military also on Monday said it has raised its readiness status ahead of upcoming military exercises in Belarus involving Russian troops.
Lithuania’s Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys told AFP this was being done “so that we can respond to the changing situation or a possible threat to us and be in the right place with the required capabilities.”
Lithuanian officials have warned that thousands of Russian troops being sent into Belarus for military exercises may stay on after the drills.
The Baltic nation borders both Russia and Belarus.
The boosted German force would make Lithuania Germany’s second-biggest deployment after Mali.
Berlin had come under fire over its refusal to send weapons to Ukraine despite repeated requests from Kyiv.
Its offer instead to dispatch 5,000 helmets was widely ridiculed recently.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, fears are mounting that a major conflict could break out in Europe.
An intense round of diplomacy is ongoing in a bid to stop the situation from spiraling out of control.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is in Washington for talks with US leader Joe Biden, while Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is in Kyiv for a meeting with her Ukrainian counterpart.