Eastern flank: NATO commander in Lithuania promises protection of the Baltic States

For better protection of the Baltic States and to strengthen NATO's eastern flank, the Bundeswehr has been running a NATO battle group in Lithuania for five years.

Eastern flank: NATO commander in Lithuania promises protection of the Baltic States

For better protection of the Baltic States and to strengthen NATO's eastern flank, the Bundeswehr has been running a NATO battle group in Lithuania for five years.

In view of the security needs of the eastern NATO partners, the presence of the troops under German command is an "extremely important and necessary signal" that the NATO countries are taking their alliance commitments seriously, said Lieutenant Colonel Marco Maulbecker of the German Press Agency in Pabrade. Lithuania borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Russia's ally Belarus, whose territory served as a staging area for Russian troops in the war against Ukraine.

"Obviously ready to defend Lithuania"

Commander Maulbecker names credible deterrence and reassurance as the mission of the multinational NATO unit. "We stand together in solidarity and deter any aggression together. If that is not enough, then of course we are ready to defend Lithuania," said the 41-year-old officer. Maulbecker is the commander of Panzer Battalion 203 in Augustdorf. He took over the leadership of the battle group in the EU and NATO country in August. The mission is considered a flagship mission of the Bundeswehr.

"We're preparing for emergencies here. We also train regularly with Lithuanian troops," said Maulbecker on the sidelines of the twice-yearly "Iron Wolf II" maneuver, in which around 3,500 soldiers from ten NATO countries took part from the middle to the end of October. countries and 700 military vehicles participated. The interaction between the armed forces of the alliance partners was trained. For example, attack and defense operations were played through. "We are showing that the battle group is ready for action."

"Lithuania is a country at peace"

According to Maulbecker, the threat potential is currently rather low. "Lithuania is a country at peace," said the commander. Nevertheless, the "higher threat perception" in the Baltic States, which stems from the geography and history - and differs from that of the German population - must be taken into account.

Since 2017, Lithuania has been the location of the German-led NATO battle group with currently around 1600 soldiers. More than half of them belong to the Bundeswehr. Against the background of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, the NATO unit had been reinforced with additional forces before the start of the war.

"Friendly relationship and close camaraderie"

The troop is integrated into the Lithuanian infantry brigade "Iron Wolf" in Rukla. "Military cooperation has developed into a friendly relationship and close camaraderie over the years," Maulbecker praised the hosts' support for the mission, which rotates every six months and also exists in the other two Baltic states of Estonia and Latvia.

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, NATO decided to have a further increased long-term presence on its eastern flank. Germany will lead a combat troops brigade with 3,000 to 5,000 soldiers for Lithuania, the command staff of which was recently put into service.

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