Germany is determined: the brigade will be permanently based in Lithuania

German troops landing in Lithuania as part of a NATO exercise
KAM, A. Dildos nuotr.

Two weeks before the NATO Summit in Vilnius, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius arrived in Lithuania on Monday. Together with President Gitanas Nausėda and Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anusšauskas, they are observing the bilateral Lithuanian-German military exercise “Griffon Storm”, Jūratė Važgauskaitė is writing at the news portal.

At a press conference after the exercise, the German Minister of Defence reiterated Germany’s readiness to deploy a brigade in Lithuania permanently.

“Germany is ready to deploy a brigade in Lithuania permanently,” the German Minister told reporters.

And while Pistorius could not give an exact date when this would happen, speaking at the airport in the morning alongside Anušauskas, in the afternoon in Pabradė, he clarified that “everything will be done at the same speed as the infrastructure for the brigade is being built in Lithuania”. The Germans, he said, are committed to assembling the brigade as quickly as the infrastructure is built.

He does not see this decision to permanently deploy the brigade in Lithuania as a change in Berlin’s position.

“It is not really a change in our position,” the German defence minister told reporters when asked what had changed.

“The second point is also very important: <…> The commander of NATO forces in Europe has certain and very important interests. That is why we say that he must be able to maintain military flexibility on the eastern flank. If he does not object (to the decision on the brigade), we will continue to move in that direction”, Pistorius said.

He also praised the impressive exercise and the speed with which German troops were moved to Lithuania for this exercise, which he said took less than 24 hours.

For his part, NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg congratulated the German leadership following the announcement by the country’s Defence Minister Pistorius that Berlin was ready to deploy a brigade of troops in Lithuania permanently.

“We very much welcome the German leadership demonstrated. <…> It has been made even stronger by today’s German statement,” Stoltenberg said at the training ground.

He said Germany’s decision shows “Germany’s strong commitment to our collective defence and common security”.

And in response to a journalist’s question about the situation in Russia and what happened there over the weekend, Stoltenberg assured that it was too early to say anything concrete.

“It is too early to say (how NATO should react) because things can still evolve,” Stoltenberg said. NATO is monitoring the situation closely and will be able to react quickly if necessary, he said.

She said that the Wagner mercenary group’s rebellion against the Russian military leadership was an internal affair.

“NATO is now focused on supporting Ukraine. This demonstrates the fragility of the Russian regime, but it is not for NATO to interfere in these matters,” the NATO Secretary General said.

Exercise attracts a large number of guests

During the exercise, the Head of State will discuss with Mr Stoltenberg, who is in Lithuania, preparations for the NATO Summit in Vilnius in July and the security situation in the region.

Mr Nausėda will also receive the North Atlantic Council, a group of diplomats from the Allies who are visiting Vilnius with the NATO leader.

Last week, NATO produced a first draft of the Vilnius Summit Declaration and started negotiations on the final text.

The NATO summit will focus on Ukraine, with the Alliance countries at odds over its integration into the bloc.

It will also address the increased commitment of NATO member countries to increased defence funding and the protection of the eastern wing.

The high-level visit to Lithuania comes as the world continues to witness events in Russia, where a private mercenary group, Wagner, staged a mutiny against the country’s military leadership over the weekend.

The day-long revolt was ended by Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who announced his retreat. It was one of the biggest challenges to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s long rule and the most serious security crisis in the country since he came to power in 1999.

Brigade issues

During his meeting with Mr Pistorius, the President discussed bilateral defence cooperation between Lithuania and Germany and the security situation in the region. Mr Anušauskas also discussed these issues with the German Minister of Defence.

A battalion-sized unit of German troops with support elements has arrived in Pabradė to train with the Lithuanians, and a total of 1,200 troops are taking part in the exercise.

The German troops taking part in the training are from a brigade assigned to Lithuania, the permanent deployment of which is disputed between the countries’ politicians.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Lithuanian and German leaders adopted a joint communiqué on the assignment of the German brigade to Lithuania, demonstrating the unity of the Allies and their determination to “defend every inch of NATO”.

However, it later emerged that the two countries have slightly different positions, with Vilnius wanting a permanent deployment, while Berlin believes that part of the force should be in Lithuania and part in Germany.

So far, there has been no final agreement between the two sides on this issue, and only the unit’s headquarters has been deployed in Lithuania.

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