“The signal is that NATO and Lithuania should be ready for a conflict within 24-48 hours, and this is a signal for NATO planners and us. Speaking about Zapad, we should note the presence of Allied troops here, their commitment and full integration in Lithuania’s Armed Forces, i.e., the Lithuanian army and ready Allies are already here,” Karoblis said at a news conference at the parliament on Monday that presented the annual report of national security threats.
Published by the State Security Department and the Second Investigations Department under the Ministry of Defence on Monday, the annual 2016 threat assessment suggests that Russia could now engage in combat actions against the Baltic states within 24-48 hours, as it has recently built up military capacities in its western territories and the Kaliningrad region .
The intelligence services also warned about possible provocations during the Russia-Belarus military exercise Zapad 2017 scheduled to take place near Lithuanian borders in September.
“It is the Russian time of military preparations, these are Russia’s technical and organizational capacities, and we have to respond in the national and the NATO context. Speaking about specific measures, we have response forces that are activated instantly. NATO is also aware of the NATO time of preparations, relevant plans are also in place, they may not be as fast as we would want them to be but additional NATO forces would arrive,” said Karoblis.
Belarus’ defense minister recently said that Zapad 2017 on September 14-20 would involve 13,000 troops, adding that the exercise would be a defense training. Lithuania’s intelligence said that “it is very likely that the actual number of participants of the exercise will be bigger, and the training scenario includes an armed conflict with NATO.” Part of the training will take place next to Lithuania’s border, with a large amount of Russian troops and combat equipment relocated to the Belarusian territory.