VILNIUS - Despite Germany's decision to have a tank battalion within the planned German brigade to be deployed in Lithuania, Lithuania's own need for this military equipment remains, Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys says.
"Lithuania's need for tanks and other heavy weapons has not gone anywhere," the general told reporters in Vilnius on Monday. "Without tanks, we could only close ourselves off in a trench, because we would not be able to carry out maneuver defense."
He was speaking after Berlin announced that the core of the planned German brigade to be deployed in Lithuania would consist of tank and mechanized infantry battalions. The third maneuver battalion would initially consist of a German-led NATO battalion battle group already in Lithuania.
"An artillery battalion with self-propelled howitzers, communications and headquarters units, air defense units, reconnaissance units, and a logistics battalion will be deployed alongside the two battalions," the army chief said.
In total, the plan is to have more than 5,000 German troops deployed in Lithuania.
Meanwhile, Lithuania aims to create an army division by 2030, and it would include a tank battalion.
Next year's draft budget includes more than 2 billion euros in defense funding, which is around 2.71 percent of the country's GDP. However, part of this will come from the existing temporary bank solidarity levy. Some politicians, including the president, criticize the government and say there are no funds for the planned creation of a division.
Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas says strengthening of the existing capabilities is also linked to the creation of the planned division that will be based on them.
For his part, Rupsys refrained to comment on this issue in detail on Monday.
"I make a recommendation, identify a need, and politicians decide whether to fund it or not. If we see that the funding is insufficient, we will have to limit our needs," Rupsys said. "I don't want to speak for politicians. The need has been identified. This is a complex issue, but the army will always be short of money."
Lithuania has approached Germany about the possible purchase of Leopard tanks.