The tiff between Vilnius and Berlin over a German brigade in Lithuania has spewed additional sparkles this week after the Lithuanian Foreign Minister and chairman of the ruling Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (HU-LCD), Gabrielius Landsbergis, issued an ultimatum-like statement.
If Germany delays the decision and insists that the issue of its deployment is up to NATO exclusively, Vilnius will seek «partners who are able to do that», i.e. station a permanent brigade in Lithuania.
In the wake of the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Berlin has pledged a brigade for Lithuania’s defense from possible Russian aggression, but there is no unanimous opinion on whether it should be permanent or stationed in Germany.
Berlin says that troops will be rotated to Lithuania for training and ready to deploy within ten days in case of an attack, while Landsbergis rebuts it:
«IF THERE IS A CLEAR PROMISE FROM THE PARTNERS THAT THE TERRITORY OF LITHUANIA WOULD BE DEFENDED FROM THE FIRST SECOND, FROM THE FIRST CENTIMETER IN THE EVENT OF AN ATTACK, THEN «WITHIN DAYS» DOES NOT WORK. IN TEN DAYS, WE CAN BE IN A POSITION WHERE WE WOULD NEED TO FIGHT FOR EVERY BIT OF OUR TERRITORY. BUCHA CAN REPEAT HERE ITSELF IN TEN DAYS,»
the minister argues.
But German officials, including the German Defence Minister, Boris Pistorius, stay firm: «This not down to who wants what – or who wants to provide what – but rather up to NATO,» Pistorius said during his visit to Lithuania on the 7th of March.
Appropriate infrastructure is also needed for the brigade’s deployment in Lithuania, including accommodation for troops and their families, the German minister told reporters during his visit to Pabradė, eastern Lithuania.
A brigade would include around 5,000 troops, as well as several battalions of armored vehicles, Pistorius underlined.
But obviously, Landsbergis wants things to happen much faster, thence the minister’s impatience and exasperation.
«If upon hearing such a position of Lithuania, our partners say that «excuse me, we didn’t calculate our capabilities, maybe we can’t, maybe we never will (deploy a brigade – L. J.)», then we have to look for such partners who can be in Lithuania with the brigade and ensure our security here,» the Lithuanian Foreign Minister said this week.
His statement has brought indignation from some opposition MPs this week.
Member of the National Security and Defence Committee of the Lithuanian Parliament, the Seimas, Social Democrat Dovilė Šakalienė said that the ultimatum and demanding tone of the Foreign Minister, questioning the commitment of the Germans is «destructive and does not help interests of Lithuania».
«The reaction of the German minister was that such pressure from the Conservative leader to immediately give certain answers or solutions is not logical, because, until now, Lithuania has always been late with its infrastructure projects. And the case concerning the accommodation of German troops is not any different. Therefore, if we want Germans to come to us, we must have a place to receive them,» the MP told lrytas.lt
ACCORDING TO HER, THE GERMAN POLITICIANS WHO VISITED THEIR SOLDIERS ALREADY SERVING IN LITHUANIA COULD NOT BE HAPPY SEEING THEM IN DOUBLE ROOMS WITH SIX MEN IN EACH.
«Alas, we couldn’t manage to make their accommodation even remotely decent, but the Germans still didn’t abandon us, even in the baking heat without air conditioning systems…They keep their commitments,» Šakalienė emphasized.
Vilnius must fulfill its commitments and put in place the infrastructure to host allied troops, even if Germany does not follow up on the brigade promise, Gabrielius Landsbergis has said previously.
Approached by BNN, Arvydas Pocius, a former Chief of Defence of Lithuania, MP now, said he did not want to comment on his fellow party leader’s remarks on finding «other partners» who would be willing to station a brigade on basis of the bilateral agreement.
«The issue stokes emotions and they are very understandable, as our own defense is on line. I can understand why the minister sounds so pronounced and insistent on the matter,» the lawmaker said, also emphasizing the issue of proper infrastructure for the deployment.
«A BRIGADE CONSISTS OF SEVEN OR EIGHT BATTALIONS – AND WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THOUSANDS OF TROOPS, AND WE ARE JUST NOT READY FOR THEM. HOWEVER, WE ARE SWIFTLY MOVING FORWARD WITH THE BUILDING OF THE NECESSARY ACCOMMODATION. BESIDES, I DO TRUST THAT, IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, A GERMAN BRIGADE WOULD BE DEPLOYED HERE RAPIDLY. THIS IS WHAT WE’VE AGREED UPON,»
the MP underscored to BNN.
Laurynas Kasčiūnas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence (CNSD), hopes that decisions taken this summer at the NATO summit in Vilnius will envision deploying additional NATO troops to Lithuania and will strengthen the country’s defense.
«Russia’s announced plans to reinforce its Western (Military) District, create additional divisions there, and reinforce itself toward the Baltic and Nordic countries are a very important indicator that we have to create an architecture of defense and deterrence in our region that will be a counterweight to these Russian plans,» he said.
Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas also points out to the country’s complicated geographical situation: «Lithuania is located between Belarus, which has lost its military independence, and Kaliningrad. Without a doubt, the Baltic defense strategy cannot rely on reinforcements only as it must also be based on reliable forces in place, which is necessary because of our geography.»
President Gitanas Nausėda has said that if discussions on the permanent deployment of a German brigade in Lithuania were to be moved from the bilateral level to the NATO level, Lithuania would argue that the security situation in the region is not improving, but, as a matter of fact, deteriorating. He says he sees «no drama» over the deployment of the German brigade.
«The communiqué signed by the German chancellor and the Lithuanian president remains valid, and both sides have confirmed it. The communiqué includes a possibility of 100 percent deployment of the brigade, it’s just that it’s not specified in time…I don’t see any drama in here as we just have to keep on working,» the president has said.
Source: Baltic News Network