According to experts who closely monitor the Kremlin’s actions, Russian troops could invade Ukraine at any time. And Lithuania has recently seen an increase in the number of visits by foreign politicians, all of them about the tense security situation in our region. Does this mean that the Lithuanian Armed Forces are also mobilising their defence capabilities? The Minister of National Defence makes no secret of the fact that the readiness of our troops and those of our allies has been increased, Eglė Šepetytė reported in TV3.lt.
The Russian Ministry of Defence publishes daily videos of its troops’ training, and the Kremlin boasts about its weapons capabilities. Russia explains to the world that it is exercising its muscles for defence reasons. Still, it is clear to the whole democratic world that Russia’s actions could lead to another invasion of Ukraine. Although, in fact, the war that began in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea, is not over yet.
“Russia is showing in every way that it is ready for military action, increasing its capabilities, testing its options”, says political analyst Vytis Jurkonis.
Foreign and Lithuanian experts believe that Russia, which has mobilised 100,000 troops on its border with Ukraine, could invade its neighbour in January-February, or even earlier.
“There could be many different scenarios – from a political agreement to, God forbid, a military scenario”, said Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the Seimas national defence and security committee chairperson.
While few believe that Russia would dare to attack NATO members – the Baltic States and Lithuania – military action on Ukraine’s border would clearly reduce security in the region. Some foreign experts publish unconfirmed information that NATO is activating tens of thousands of troops in case of a sudden need to defend the Baltic States and Poland. Does this mean that the Lithuanian army and allies are also on their feet?
“Lithuania is NATO, and the readiness of our forces is at a higher level. We are preparing for all sorts of scenarios, although we would not like them to be realised,” commented Minister of National Defence Arvydas Anušauskas.
The Minister and the army do not disclose how much the preparedness differs from normal.
“I don’t comment on the level of readiness in general, it is an internal matter, and not everyone has to feel and know-how ready we are. But if it is necessary to demonstrate our readiness, of course, the Lithuanian Armed Forces are ready to do so,” Anušauskas explained.
“It is not the case that the readiness is raised in a way that everybody understands because we have enough forces on standby, which are currently on standby, very briefly. They can be activated up to a day and even sooner, and some forces within a few hours. And those forces are fully sufficient,” said Gintautas Ciunis, a spokesman for the Armed Forces.
Major Gintautas Ciunis reassures that no fewer forces are ready to defend the country on public holidays.
“There are personnel on duty – anytime. The whole army is awake, on monitors and monitoring the situation,” says Mr Ciunis.
By the way, the number of visits by foreign officials and politicians to Lithuania has recently increased more than ever. For example, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht visited Rukla and sent a resounding message to the Kremlin that it has no right to tell NATO how to behave. A couple of days earlier, Russia demanded that the alliance not accept any new members or establish military bases in the former Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the Baltic defence ministers were recently in Kaunas. At the end of November, the Secretary-General of NATO himself and the President of the European Commission visited Lithuania. Naturally, the security situation was the focus of everyone’s attention. This can also be seen as a reaction to Russian aggression.
“This escalation is aimed at imposing the rules of the game on the West. The ultimatum would spell out in plain language what the Russian Federation wants – to stop NATO’s eastward expansion, to get an informal veto. It would put limits on us so that NATO’s military presence could not be so large”, Kasčiūnas said.
“The biggest doubt is that the Kremlin’s recent actions have not seemed to be based on cold reason, rational calculation. This is the most worrying thing”, Yurkonis said.
The United States has once again called on Moscow to de-escalate the situation.