PABRADE – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday welcomed German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius' announcement that Berlin is ready to send around 4,000 troops to Lithuania on a permanent basis.
"We, of course, very most welcome German leadership which has been demonstrated (...) and is very much enhanced by Germany's announcement today," he told reporters in the Pabrade training area, close to Vilnius.
The decision "shows a strong German commitment to our collective defense and to our shared security", he said.
Pistorius said in Vilnius earlier on Monday that Germany is prepared to permanently station a 4,000-strong brigade in Lithuania if the Baltic country puts the necessary infrastructure in place and if this is in line with NATO plans.
The minister told reporters in Pabrade that Germany was the country on NATO's eastern flank during the Cold War and that Poland and the Baltic countries are now exposed because of their geographical location.
"Germany as the biggest economy of Europe and an important member of NATO is willing and will be able to take responsibility now for the new Eastern flank after more than three decades," he said.
Stoltenberg and Pistorius, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda visited Pabrade to observe Griffin Storm, a Lithuanian-German bilateral military exercise currently underway in the training area.
The exercise lasts several weeks and involves about 1,200 troops from Lithuania and Germany.
The German troops are from Germany's brigade that was assigned to Lithuania in the wake of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
How ewer, Vilnius and Berlin had failed to agree for almost a year on whether the brigade should be permanently stationed in Lithuania.
Pistorius said that the German troops arrived in Lithuania for the exercise very quickly, within 24 hours.
"Cooperation with our Lithuanian friends has been working very well for the last almost seven years," he said.
Germany leads NATO's multinational battalion stationed in Lithuania since 2017.
According to Stoltenberg, Exercise Griffon Storm demonstrated the potential to rapidly scale up the battalion to a brigade-sized unit.
"With German personnel and military vehicles, the deployment operated seamlessly alongside Lithuanian forces," the NATO chief said.
"This sends a clear message: NATO is ready to defend every inch of allied territory," he added.
The high-level visit took place a few weeks before NATO's July 11-12 summit in Vilnius.