Lithuania wants NATO battalion permanently deployed as ‘security guarantee’

Lithuania wants NATO battalion permanently deployed as ‘security guarantee’
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, CG USAREUR, chats with Mayor Vitalijus Satkevicius of Panevezys, Lithuania, and Major General Almantas Leika, Commander of the Lithuanian Land Forces, 24 Mar 2015. (Image: U.S. Army Europe via Facebook)

Lithuania’s foreign minister says his government wants a NATO battalion deployed permanently in the country as a “security guarantee” — not a provocation against Russia which has stepped up military action in the Baltic states.

Linas Linkevicius said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday that Lithuania’s relations with Russia are “not simple, not easy,” but he expressed hope that the two countries can have “normal relations” in the future.

The three Baltic States — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia…have been alarmed by Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine and the increasing activity of Russian forces in the Baltic Sea.

Lithuania has been especially outspoken against Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, and has been equally outspoken in support of the current Ukrainian government’s decision to move toward Europe. Its request earlier this month, along with Latvia and Estonia, for a NATO battalion of 700-800 troops in each country, is also certain to anger Russia if approved.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the request would be “assessed carefully.”

Linkevicius insisted the request is “not an escalation of tensions” with Russia. Rather, he said, it will implement the decision taken by NATO at its summit in Wales in September to increase the Western military alliance’s footprint in Eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic states.

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