VILNIUS – The recent increase in Russian and Belarusian military exercises pose no direct threat to Lithuania but one should be concerned about their offensive scenario, Chief of Defense of Lithuania Valdemaras Rupsys says.
"We view it as pressure. On the other hand, we should always evaluate how much their capacity is growing near our border, near Lithuania. Naturally, their combat power, the distribution of military instruments and their exercises are causing concern as their exercises are always, contrary to what is declared, are focused on offensive action. That's why there's a bit of concern. But today I can say that there's no direct military threat," the army chief said after his meeting with President Gitanas Nauseda. His interview was broadcast by the lrt.lt news website.
According to Rupsys, "threatening statements that they will not put up with anything" should be considered with a clear head, looking into practical action.
Rupsys underlined the fact that Russia and Belarus use offensive scenarios, contrary to defensive ones used by NATO allies during exercises in Lithuania and elsewhere.
"That's why we should look into the development of our forces, into joint plans with our allies and be always prepared to any case," he said.
Lithuanian National Defense Minister Raimondas Karoblis says the non-planned exercises in Belarus are loosing steam, which is reflected in President Alexander Lukashenko's statements that continuing the exercises is to expensive, and the new exercises with Russia, he said, were long-planned and pose no major risk.
Karoblis also reiterated that Lukashenko's strong anti-NATO rhetoric is "an attempt to direct the public from the true cause of the existing political situation – the existing regime and probably President Lukashenko himself", and Lithuania is determined not to give in to such provocation.
Amid the ongoing political crisis in Belarus, the Belarusian-Russian military exercise Slavic Brotherhood-2020 started on Monday. The Russian Defense Ministry says it will take place until September 25 and will involve over 800 troops and some 170 pieces of equipment from both countries.