On the first day of the visit, Steinmeier is to meet with his Lithuanian counterpart, Dalia Grybauskaitė, to discuss bilateral relations and cooperation in the EU and NATO, as well as the security situation and “measures to deter Russia’s threat”, the Lithuanian president’s office said in a press release.
On Friday, the German president is scheduled to visit German troops stationed in Rukla, in the central Lithuanian district of Jonava, and to honor the victims of the Holocaust in Paneriai, outside Vilnius.
Steinmeier is coming to Lithuania after his visits to Latvia and Estonia where he pledged to take care of the security of the Baltic countries, but warned that blind hostility toward Russia would be dangerous.
NATO has deployed multinational battalions in the three Baltic countries and Poland as a deterrent to Russia following its actions in Ukraine and the Baltic Sea region. Germany, as the lead nation, has contributed around 450 troops to the battalion in Lithuania.
“During six months, the battalion has reached full combat readiness and has become an integral part of our national defense with social activity of its soldiers being visible in society,” Grybauskaitė’s office said in the press release.
Germany always stresses that while deploying troops to Eastern Europe, it is necessary to maintain a dialog with Russia and it often does not support Lithuania’s calls for Moscow’s isolation. Lithuanian officials, for their part, argue that making concession and returning to “business as usual” in relations with Russia would only provoke aggressive action by Moscow.
Lithuanian officials criticized some of the initiatives of Steinmeier, who was then Germany’s foreign minister, for closer links with Russia and arms control.
Lithuania criticizes plans to expand the Nord Stream gas pipeline between Russia and Germany across the Baltic Sea, saying that the project would increase Europe’s dependence on Russia and would deal a blow to Ukraine as a transit country. In response to the criticism, Germany says that it is an economic project that it will help lower gas prices.