“The NATO Battalion is one of the most important deterrence measures demonstrating NATO solidarity and resolve to defence our country,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said in Rukla on February 4 at the celebration of the 2nd anniversary of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group (NATO eFP BG) in Lithuania.
According to Minister, the unit doubtlessly contributed to the public support to the world’s strongest defence alliance, as well as NATO presence in Lithuania. “It is also a solid merit of Germany, our key security ally in Europe,” R. Karoblis said after a bilateral meeting with Federal Minister of Defence Dr. Ursula von der Leyen.
Later Lithuanian and German Ministers of Defence joined President of the Republic of Lithuania HE Dalia Grybauskaitė and leadership of the Lithuanian and the German Armed Forces in congratulating the Rukla-based NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group. The NATO forward presence force has been in our country for two years already to ensure deterrence and defence.
According to Minister, the second anniversary of the NATO eFP BG in Lithuania and the visit by the Federal Minister of Defence is a perfect gift to Lithuania on its 15th anniversary of NATO membership. “Germany is and will remain our most important defence partner in Europe,” R. Karoblis said.
According to Minister of Defence of Germany U. von der Leyen, German soldiers not only ensure security in the region with their service in Lithuania but also demonstrate that NATO allies keep on their commitments. “We will stay here for as long as the security requires,” she said. Minister also thanked Lithuania for the exceptional Host Nation Support and soldiers’ training conditions, and assured that Germany would continue contributing investment to the development of military infrastructure in Lithuania – approximately Eur 110 million is planned to be allotted by Germany for that purpose until 2021.
“The continuous presence of allies in Lithuania and the region is a very strong signal of deterrence to potential aggressors. Every one of them assess that not only the Lithuanian Armed Forces but also its allies deployed here would come to the defence. Also, it is probable that the countries whose capabilities are in the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group would be especially interested, just as we would, in a speedy activation of the NATO Response Force and Article 5 and it would have a positive effect on decision-making,” Chief of Defence of Lithuania Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas said.
The NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group is integrated into the Lithuanian Armed Forces Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf, it has been deployed with the Training Regiment in Rukla since early January 2017. Over the two years, roughly 8 thousand allied soldiers from nine NATO allies have served in the unit on a rotational basis. Currently the NATO eFP Battle Group is manned by Germany, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Norway, and Belgium, Iceland contributes an expert, and a German combat tank unit reinforces the NATO eFP BG.
“The experience our allies bring is invaluable and we are integrating it to the best of our ability when we do the defence planning,” Commander of the Iron Wolf Brigade Col Mindaugas Steponavičius.
Soldiers deployed with the NATO eFP BG in Lithuania actively and unceasingly take part in all important exercises in Lithuania. ”The benefit of joint training is obvious – we have had not only our battalions, but also the Lithuanian Air Force, forces conducting the NATO Air Policing Mission training together. We all together have taken part in combat training events rom specialist to battalion-level training in both, civilian and military areas,” Col M. Steponavičius says. He underscored that it doubtlessly was one of the factors in the success of interaction and interoperability of NATO eFP BG and Lithuanian soldiers improving by the day.
The NATO Battalion in Lithuania has not only made itself feel at home but also dug in – NATO troops have established great relations not only with their Lithuania colleagues but also with local communicates, schools and municipalities. They are active across different cultural and social projects, commemorative events of historical and national dates to our country.
The highest ranking officials – kings, dukes, presidents, heads of parliaments, ministries, chiefs of armed forces – of the countries contributing troops to the NAO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania paid formal visit s to the unit. Which is splendid news for the people of Lithuania – so many allies have become familiar with a country worthy of defending and met people that would defend their countries if they needed to. Lithuanian population supports deployment of the NATO eFP Battle Group in Lithuania too – 76% of respondents in a poll carried out by request of the Ministry of National Defence in the end of last year agree that deployment of the NATO eFP BG helps to deter hostile states.
Deployment of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland was a historical decision taken by the NATO Heads of State and Government in July 2016. The capabilities are primarily a response to the Russian military aggression in Ukraine, and increase of Russia’s military potential and show or force in the region.
Lithuania continues taking provision for the needs of NATO allies very seriously – they receive lodging, catering, fuel for service purposes, welfare and leisure services. Also, projects for a swifter movement and deployment of allied forces are developed in Pabradė, Rukla, and the Lithuanian Air Force Base.
Moreover, Lithuania is adjusting its military training areas and infrastructure to the needs of both, Lithuanian and allies’ troops in order to ensure proper training conditions, limits of Lithuanian Armed Forces’ areas and military training territories around them are expanded, infrastructure renovated, new training grounds are set up, etc.
Lithuania and Germany are bound by a particularly successful and fruitful cooperation. Germany has recently provided an already 10th rotation of the NATO Air Policing Mission in the Baltic states and protected the Baltic airspace since 2004. The country also assists Lithuania in the modernisation of our Armed Forces and military equipment, took the role of leadership for the NATO eFP BG NATO and assembled forces of other allies quickly. Last year the Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf, into which the NATO eFP BG is integrated, was affiliated to a division of the German Bundeswehr in order to ensure better military interoperability necessary for an effective national defence.
Photo credits: Alfredas Pliadis (MoD)