News ID: 177235
Published: 0559 GMT February 08, 2017

Lithuania hails arrival of German NATO battalion

Lithuania hails arrival of German NATO battalion

NATO has deployed hundreds of German troops to Lithuania as part of its multinational battalion aimed at bolstering its eastern flank against Russia.

The troops arrived on Tuesday and are part of one of the Western military alliance’s four battalions serving on a rotational basis in Lithuania and three other European states.

The newly arrived Germans will head a group of soldiers from countries such as French, Holland, and Belgium who by Spring 2017 will reach the number of 1,200.

In January, a group of German officers arrived in Lithuanian capital Vilnius to organize ahead of the upcoming deployments.

Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite hailed the battalion’s arrival, stressing that NATO military buildup sends a strong message of unity.

"Never before has Lithuania hosted military forces of such size and integrity. It sends a very clear and important message to all that NATO stands strong and united," she said, adding, “NATO deterrence protects peace."

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was also present at the ceremony, during which she said the deployment showed that Lithuania was not alone.

The US and its allies have been at odds with Moscow since the strategic Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, controlled by Ukraine, joined Russia following a referendum in March 2014.

Western countries have been fearful of a repeat of that scenario in other countries, and have sought to step up their military presence in Eastern Europe.

Moscow is seriously wary of the US-led alliance’s military buildup near its borders. In response to the aggressive measures, Russia has beefed up its southwestern military capacity, deploying nuclear-capable Iskander-M missiles to its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad bordering Poland and Lithuania.

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