VILNIUS - NATO will improve its deterrence and defense structure in its eastern flank after the Alliance's upcoming Madrid summit in June, Lithuania's Chief of Defense Valdemaras Rupsys says.
"Certainly, the new NATO deterrence and defense structure in our region will be improved. It will be more robust and better-prepared to respond to challenges in time with appropriate capabilities," Rupsys told reporters in Lithuania's western city of Klaipeda on Friday after attending this week's meeting of NATO's Military Committee.
"The question now is not so much what the final decision will be, what form the brigade will take. But we will certainly have plans for that brigade and even larger units to be here," the commander added.
"Military advice to the political leadership is still being worded", the army chief said, adding that the ambassadors of NATO countries will meet later to discuss these issues.
"It's a fact that one or another proposal and decision will be submitted before the summit, and we will certainly have changes," Rupsys said.
He says he's optimistic about these possibilities because all allied members have a clear and uniform understanding of the threats and believe that NATO must be prepared "to defend the countries, the NATO area, from Russia and, at the same time, from other threats". These threats, he said, include international terrorism.
"There's a clear idea of how air defense will be carried out, what kind of deterrent defense capability we will have in the maritime dimension, and also on the land. But our existing capability, i.e. the NATO forward battalion, will be reinforced," Rupsys underlined.
In his words, speaking in military terms, the existing NATO unit in Lithuania with 1,650 troops can already be called a "brigade minus" rather than a "battalion" as it has brigade-level operational commanders and maneuver units exceeding those of a battalion.
The Lithuanian army chief says one of the options to increase deployment is "through defense plans", adding, however, that other options are also being considered.
NATO deployed multinational battalion battle groups in the Baltic states and Poland in 2017, with Germany leading the unit in Lithuania and sending the largest number of troops.
NATO was prompted to reinforce its eastern flank by the changed security situation in the region as a result of Russia's war it started in Ukraine in late February.