News

2017.06.21 10:19

NATO holds a drill in defending the Baltics’ weak spot

Algirdas Acus 2017.06.21 10:19

Lithuania in co-operation with its NATO Allies carried out the first large-scale defensive drill on the border with Poland rehearsing for a possible scenario where Russia might try to cut-off the Baltics from the rest of NATO.

The frontier between Lithuania and Poland runs 104 kilometres through farmland, woods and low hills, in an area known as the Suwalki Gap. If seized by Russia, it would cut off Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from their Allies in the West.
 

Over the weekend, U.S. helicopters and British aircraft took part in exercises that also involved troops from Poland, Lithuania and Croatia, in a simulated defence of the potential flashpoint.
 

‘We never performed such a task before when our Lithuanian army units connect with NATO forces that come from other state, in this case – from Poland’, said Head of the Lithuanian Land Forces Valdemaras Rupšys.
 

The scenario suggests that Russian forces had already occupied Suwalki Gap, and Lithuania simulated a covert insertion of forces to open-up the way for the NATO reinforcement.
 

Three American helicopters landed in a field in rural Lithuania, startling grazing horses and cows, in an area several hours' drive from where a U.S. battalion is stationed, at Orzysz base in Poland.
 

‘Of course, the main focus of these exercises will be evaluating and certifying of the NATO forefront battalion’, said Valdemaras Rupšys.
 

Following Russia’s aggression in Eastern Ukraine, NATO decided to deploy four international battlegroups totalling around 4,500 troops in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
 

NATO officials believe Moscow will hold its own exercise in Russia and Belarus on a much greater scale, in September, possibly involving 100,000 troops, under the codename "Zapad" (West). Baltic officials believe Moscow will also rehearse an attack on the Suwalki Gap during the “Zapad”.

All material is provided by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence and is free to use.


Sound bite (Lithuanian)

Brigadier General VALDEMARAS RUPŠYS, Head of Lithuanian Land Forces:

We never performed such a task before, when our Lithuanian army units connect with NATO forces that come from other state, in this case – from Poland.

Sound bite (Lithuanian)

Brigadier General VALDEMARAS RUPŠYS, Head of Lithuanian Land Forces: