Tensions on EU's eastern borders call for extra US forces in Europe – Lithuanian defmin

  • 2022-01-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The tense situation on the EU's eastern borders calls for additional US forces in Europe, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said on Wednesday.

"A step when the US will move additional forces to Europe is definitely awaiting us, because the situation requires it," he told journalists ahead of the Cabinet's meeting. 

Russia has amassed up to 100,000 troops near Ukraine's borders, sparking fears in the West that it plans to invade its neighbor.

Adding to rising tensions between the West and the Kremlin was the arrival of Russian troops in Belarus for drills this week. The move came without the usual advance notice to countries in the region.

According to Anusauskas, the appropriate response to this would be "the emergence of additional capacity in this region".

The minister said the deployment of Russian troops to Belarus "is not an exercise".   

"It is a further escalation of the situation," he said. "We have to look at this in the context of Ukraine and regional security". 

The United States is worried that the arrival of Russian troops in Belarus could lead to a permanent presence of Russian forces in the country, possibly including nuclear weapons. 

The Lithuanian defense minister said that nuclear weapons always pose additional threats, but added that "they exist in the Kaliningrad region" already.

"Russia has this capability [nuclear weapons] next to NATO countries – actually, 100 kilometers from our border," Anusauskas said. 

"These are real threats. There are no nuclear weapons deployed in Belarus at the moment, but there are always possibilities for this and there is the political will on the part of Alexander Lukashenko.". 

"To what extent Russia will make use of this desire is apparently another question for the future," he added. 

Moscow says its military maneuvers are a response to NATO's growing presence in its zone of influence and demands that the Alliance permanently block Ukraine from joining it.

Kyiv has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in the wake of Ukraine's pro-Western revolution.