What Lithuanian politicians aren’t saying about the deployment of the German brigade: a call to stay in touch with reality

The President Nausėda and German Chancellor Scholz visit the General Silvestras Žukauskas Training Area. Photo Robertas Dačkus, the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania

The ever-renewed speeches of the country’s politicians that the ten-day period during which the entire German brigade should be deployed in Lithuania in the event of a crisis is not suitable for ensuring the country’s security in the long term are irresponsible, do not reflect reality and are related to political point-scoring, defence analyst Aleksandras Matonis believes, Ieva Naureckaitė writing on lrytas.lt news portal.

Moreover, according to the military expert, Lithuania will never have the infrastructure to train an entire German brigade simultaneously, at least satisfactorily, in peacetime – Lithuania is simply too small for that.

Have the Germans changed their mind?

In June, a statement signed by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that “in addition to the already existing and reinforced battalion battalion battalion, Germany is ready to lead a robust and combat-ready brigade in Lithuania to deter and defend against Russian aggression”.

However, Lithuanian and German leaders read this document differently. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock reiterates that the countries agreed that part of the brigade promised by Berlin would be deployed in Lithuania. In contrast, the other part would remain at home. However, top Lithuanian leaders said they had read the promise that the entire brigade would be deployed in the country.

Lithuanian politicians say unofficially that German officials have changed their minds on this issue. Some speculate that the Germans no longer want to deploy the entire brigade in Lithuania, allegedly because they see less need for it as Russia weakens in Ukraine. Others argue that it is physically impossible for Germany to deploy a full brigade in Lithuania, as it does not have the necessary resources.

Behind closed doors, there is also talk about the fact that the Germans hear different positions within Lithuania – while politicians are loudly advocating the deployment of an entire brigade in the country once the necessary infrastructure is in place, it is said that the Commander-in-Chief of the Lithuanian Armed Forces is reserved about the plans of the politicians.

Sees populism

At the same time, military expert Matonis is convinced that German politicians have not changed their stance – as they talked about the ten-day deadline in the event of a crisis, they are still talking about it now, and they are continuing to fulfil their commitments as they promised.

“The agreements between the Ministry of National Defence, the army and Germany talk about a ten-day deadline for all the brigade soldiers with all their boots, suitcases and armoured vehicles to be on the territory of Lithuania. And that ten days have caused some irritation among the politicians, who behave as if the brigade belongs to them, as if the Germans have to do something.

Such populist behaviour is unjustified and has nothing to do with military planning or understanding how deployment processes work. It is aimed at loud talking – we want the Germans to be here all at once, and you, Mr Anušauskas, make it so that they can all fit in here”, Matonis noted.

Preparation of soldiers

Even if Lithuanian officials deliver on their promise to provide infrastructure for German troops by 2025, Matonis is convinced that Lithuania will never have the infrastructure that would allow the entire German brigade to operate and train simultaneously, at least satisfactorily, in peacetime.

“I don’t think there would be a person in Lithuania who would say that an additional 5,000 people – or a quarter of our current army – could be deployed in Lithuania, and it would be ensured that they would not just sit around, but would continue to carry out the same intensity of combat training as they were able to do in Germany. So it seems to me that this is unrealistic.

However, it is realistic to achieve that at least part of that brigade could be in Lithuania at the same time, participating in combat training with Lithuania, and the other part of the brigade would be in Germany, ready to move at any time. And so would any other NATO country that has committed itself to strengthening security in Lithuania”, Matonis said.

Without a full-scale training facility, German troops would be unable to maintain their skills – individual (shooting, movement, orientation, etc.) and collective (jointness with other units, interaction with combat equipment, etc.).

“A soldier needs to work continuously, constantly, and for this he must have not only classrooms or cosy barracks, but first of all the opportunity to act in the field, to perform tactical marches, shooting exercises, simulation of combat actions with and without shooting – a multitude of complex tasks,” emphasised Mr Matonis.

German resources

Another problem with the permanent deployment of the entire brigade in Lithuania relates to German resources and military planning. All 5,000 troops from another country would not be able to come and live in Lithuania all the time – rotational mechanisms are in place.

If the German army were to assign a brigade to Lithuania every year and move it all to Lithuania, then three German brigades – in other words, an entire German division – would be manned for Lithuania alone.

“Military planning goes in cycles. One unit is away, a second unit is in the process of intensive training and preparation for that departure while simultaneously carrying out national defence tasks, and a third unit, having already carried out its mission, is resting, being redeployed, while carrying out national tasks.

Practically an entire German division can therefore be involved in this process. In order to have 5,000 German troops in Lithuania, 10,000 people have to be prepared in addition to the 5,000 German troops, who have their own national and international defence commitments,” Matonis emphasised.

Therefore, if it is not possible to deploy all the troops in Lithuania at the same time, or if there are problems in generating the necessary capacity in the future, according to Matonis, it would be better to have some of the troops in Germany, where they have their own infrastructure, which would make it easier to maintain them and to carry out their combat training.

“What would this look like in reality? The brigade assigned to Lithuania consists of two mechanised infantry battalions, one engineering battalion, one reconnaissance battalion and a logistics battalion.

It is logical that there should be one mechanised infantry battalion in Lithuania at the same time and that a company or two should be added from the others – engineers, reconnaissance – as much as is necessary to make the part of the brigade that is here effective in every respect.

And they sit here for six months and take part in combat training with the Lithuanian forces, and other allies. Then they would have enough training grounds – provided the new Rūdninki training ground is built within a couple of years. And then they go back to Germany and are replaced by another brigade.

But both those who are in Germany at the time and those who are here know that, if necessary, the whole brigade has to be here within ten days because in a crisis, it does not matter whether they live in containers or tents, whether they run a pizzeria, whether they bring those pizzas to the gates of Pabradė or not.

If it’s a crisis, it’s a crisis – everybody is ready to go to war,” the expert said.

The security aspect

Matonis stresses that whether the entire German brigade is deployed in Lithuania or only part of it does not change Lithuania’s security situation in any way, contrary to what some of the country’s politicians are explaining by demanding a full brigade in Lithuania.

“Current military intelligence capabilities can identify a crisis well before ten days. As a result, the US and other NATO countries warned Ukraine about the imminent war in Ukraine, the specific military operations, and how things would play out 100 days before the Russian invasion.

With the information coming from human, electronic and communications intelligence sources, a NATO country would certainly have received the information about the impending crisis early enough to allow all the additional forces needed to reinforce its defence to arrive here, to establish themselves and to prepare for defence, not only the German ones,” Matonis stressed.

The expert also calls misleading the claims that it is impossible to bring several thousand troops with heavy equipment to Lithuania in a few weeks.

“We now have the fifth rotation of US troops in Pabrade. A whole battalion of heavy equipment – more than 40 tanks, over 30 infantry fighting vehicles, and hundreds of other combat vehicles from America (mainly from the state of Texas) – is brought from the ports in the Gulf of Mexico to Europe in an average of 11-13 days, and then transported to Lithuania within 2-3 days. That is two to two and a half weeks, under peaceful conditions.

Meanwhile, from Pomerania in Germany, where there are three seaports (two of which are suitable for ferries to Klaipėda), it is a 30-hour crossing. By plane, as has been repeatedly tested during the exercise, it takes two hours to get the equipment from Germany and 3 or 4 hours with all the loading and unloading.

Moreover, once the brigade is assigned and at least some of the troops are deployed here, most of the supplies needed for the brigade would already have been brought here, leaving some of the equipment and the infantry to be brought back. Ten days from Germany, even by land via Poland, is realistic, not to mention the sea and air routes, ” Matonis said.

Missing the responsibility of politicians

So why was Minister of National Defence Anušauskas publicly denounced not only by President Gitanas Nausėda, but even by his party comrades when he announced the news of Germany’s arrival within ten days?

Matonis stresses that the fact that some politicians, even in the field of national security, are not familiar with the specifics of combat training does not absolve them of their responsibility to communicate responsibly.

“Such rhetoric of politicians is meant to show that they are serious about the matter, almost ripping their shirts off their chests to ensure Lithuania’s defence in case of danger.

We understand and appreciate the work of these politicians. We know that they have done some good things. Still, their rhetoric could be more careful, more responsible and not distract from the real processes that are already taking place between the Lithuanian and German militaries. Political decisions have been taken; now we need to leave it to the military to deal with it calmly”, said the military expert.

According to Matonis, Lithuania’s actual preparations for hosting the German brigade are progressing productively. Within a month of the political decisions, the command components arrived in the country. In order to free up the necessary infrastructure, the Vaidotas Mechanised Infantry Battalion has been moved from Rukla to Marijampolė.

Mr Matonis noted that Lithuanian politicians’ communication peculiarities on the German brigade issue are quickly absorbed by the German media, which is not kind to the armed forces of this country.

“It should be stressed that the German media is always very critical of the German army. They have a tradition of distrust – maybe due to the army’s poorer ability to communicate, or the Second World War, the demilitarisation of Germany and historical mistakes.

He noted that it is not popular in Germany to talk about the unique role or importance of the army”.

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