Lithuanian defense chief says hosting NATO battalion top priority

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/12/9 9:16:07

Hosting the NATO battalion is a priority of the Lithuanian army, said the chief of Lithuanian defense on Thursday when visiting military facilities being prepared to host NATO's multinational battalion early next year.

"Currently, preparations to host NATO allied battalion's combat group is one of the priority activities of Lithuanian army," Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Zukas said.

With a few months left before the deployment of around 1,000 allied troops, Zukas visited the training regiment of the Lithuanian Great Hetman Jonusas Radvila, which will accommodate the troops, mechanized infantry brigade Iron Wolf and General Romualdas Giedraitis artillery battalion, in central Lithuania.

Lithuania is to spend roughly 5.8 million euros (6.15 million US dollars) on military infrastructure projects by June 2017.

From early next year, Lithuania, as well as Latvia, Estonia and neighboring Poland is to receive multinational battalions of a size of up to 1,000 each as agreed by NATO defense ministers earlier this summer.

According to Lithuanian army officials, the battalion is to reach its full operational capacity by the middle of next year. The multinational battalion in Lithuania will be led by German forces.

On Thursday, Zukas said the presence of NATO military unit in Lithuania will be "a very strong deterrence measure."

"From now on, we will have NATO forces dedicated not only for joint trainings but for immediate collective defense if needed," said Zukas.

The small Baltic state with a population of less than 3 million and its closest neighbors at the Eastern flank of NATO has stepped up their defense capabilities and asked for an increased military presence from the allies in response to rising tensions in the eastern Europe, since conflict in the eastern Ukraine began in 2014.

Posted in: EUROPE

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