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2020.07.30 09:18

US is sending a battalion to Lithuania, defence minister says

BNS2020.07.30 09:18

The United States will deploy a battalion of troops to Lithuania this autumn for a rotation of more than half a year, Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said on Wednesday.

“A battalion is coming from Poland in mid-September for two weeks of training in Pabradė. After a break of several weeks or a month, there are plans to deploy most of the battalion to Pabradė again for up to late June next year,” he told BNS.

Hundreds of American troops were stationed in Pabradė, close to Vilnius, between October 2019 and June 2020 as part of the first US battalion rotation.

According to Karoblis, the deployment was considered by the Americans to be a “complete success”, and formed the basis for further work.

The defence minister's comment came shortly after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “there are opportunities” to send additional American forces to Poland and the Baltic states as the United States is slashing its military presence in Germany.

Read more: US considers sending more troops to Baltics – defense secretary

Without going into detail on specific capabilities, Karoblis said that US troops are already present in Lithuania, but the country is seeking larger presence “to have a greater deterrence and defence effect”.

“We have repeatedly told the US that we want it to consider Lithuania for a permanent deployment of its forces,” he told BNS.

Lithuania must invest in its infrastructure to be able to host American troops, Karoblis noted.

“These deployments are not a given. We must work hard to ensure the best possible conditions for US troops to carry out their tasks,” he said. “We will continue to work in this direction.”

US officials also say that American troop deployments to Lithuania have been made possible by the country's investment in the military.

Lithuania is one of nine NATO member states that spend at least 2 percent of GDP on defence.

As a deterrent to Russia, a German-led NATO multinational battalion has been stationed in Lithuania since 2017. It currently consists of over 1,000 troops.