VILNIUS – Lithuania has to consider setting up a new military training area, possibly jointly with Latvia, to be able to host more troops from NATO allies, Laurynas Kasciunas, chairman of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, said on Thursday.
"You can request a lot of things, but you will be asked where the soldiers are going to train and live," the MP told the Ziniu Radijas radio station. "We are dealing with these issues [and developing] the Rudninkai military training area."
"In my opinion, we need to start talking about another training area in Lithuania," he added.
Lithuania's existing military training areas are insufficient to properly host allied troops.
The parliament has recently granted the status of special national importance to a project for the development of the Rudninkai training area in Salcininkai District to help accelerate its implementation.
Kasciunas did not say where a new training area could be built, but noted that such a project could be attractive to municipalities looking to develop their infrastructure and create new jobs.
"We should consider places that are less populated, have less fertile land and more space," he said.
The MP said he would consider setting up a joint training area with Latvia.
"When you have a regional training area, it is much easier to attract more allies to our region," he said.
As NATO prepares to adopt a new security concept for the June summit, Lithuania and the other Baltic states are pushing for the multi-national battalions deployed in the region to be converted into brigades, thus significantly increasing the number of troops present in the countries.
The countries in the region also want more air and air defense systems and other capabilities. They say this is needed not only to deter Russia, but to actually defend against it.