VILNIUS– Lithuania deserves NATO solidarity and defense, Germany's Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in her opening speech at the Munich Security Conference on Friday afternoon.
In her address to the participants of the conference, she gave a brief overview of Lithuania's history: Soviet and Nazi occupations, the singing revolution and the Soviet aggression of January 1991.
"With courage and pride, the people of Lithuania prevailed against an adversary that seemed impossible to defeat. Since then, Lithuania has been part of a unified Europe of democracy and freedom. It is a respected member of EU and NATO, as are Estonia, Latvia and Poland. It is a country that deserves our solidarity and our protection," said the German minister.
Von der Leyen sa id Germany's decision to head a NATO battalion in Lithuania was in part return of a debt for Allied protection during the Cold War.
"Yes, today again German soldiers are stationed in Lithuania because we had not forgotten that we too owe our freedom and unity to the protection of our Allies for long 40 years," said the minister.
The German-led NATO battalion is being stationed in Lithuania this year in response to Russia's intervention in Ukraine and increased military activity in the Baltic Sea region. Similar units are also deployed in Poland, Latvia and Estonia, headed by the United States, Canada and Great Britain.
Each of the battalions will include about 1,000 troops.