|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Mar 03, 2017 08:36 AM EST|
(Photo : Bundeswehr) Men of the Deutsches Heer in Lithuania.
Germany will keep troops of the "Deutsches Heer" (the German Army) in Lithuania indefinitely to stiffen the Lithuanian Land Force, which only has 8,000 active duty personnel, in the face of a continuing Russian build-up aimed at invading Lithuania and the two other Baltic States of Estonia and Latvia.
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German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on March 2 slammed Russia's unwarranted military build-up along its borders with the Baltic States as irrational, emphasizing Germany will keep troops in the region for as long as needed.
"The military potential that the Russian Federation has built up here at the border is completely irrational in my view because there is zero threat emanating from these countries," said Gabriel.
Gabriel gave no further details about German military deployments, but said the German troops would remain "as long as needed" in the Lithuanian military base where they are currently billeted.
Gabriel visited 400 German soldiers stationed in Rukla, Lithuania. These men are part of a German-led battle group of 1,000 troops in Lithuania.
They will be joined this year by U.S.-led forces in Poland; British-led soldiers in Estonia and Canadian-led troops in Latvia.
NATO is expanding its presence in the Baltic States to levels unprecedented since the Cold War, a deployment triggered by Russia's annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and Russian support for Russian-backed separatists seeking to dismember Ukraine.
In early February, men of the Deutsches Heer began deploying to Lithuania as part of NATO's push to better defend the three Baltic States, which Russia will attack first should a new European War erupt.
The German infantry, which arrived Feb. 7, will form part of a 1,200-strong NATO multinational battalion that will also include French, Dutch and Belgian troops. NATO plans to deploy four of these multinational enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battalion battle groups throughout the Baltic States.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite hailed the German battalion's arrival, and said the deployment emphasizes NATO strong unity.
"Never before has Lithuania hosted military forces of such size and integrity. It sends a very clear and important message to all that NATO stands strong and united," she said.
"NATO deterrence protects peace."
The United States in January began deploying the first contingent of a US. Army Brigade Combat Team to Poland. This entire unit will number over 3,500 well-trained troops of the U.S. Army 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, U.S. 4th Infantry Division (3-4 ABCT).
3-4 ABCT is one of the best trained frontline units in the U.S. Army. Over the next few months, 3,500 men of 3-4 ABCT; 87 M1A2SEPv2 Abrams main battle tanks (the latest version); 144 M2A3 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), 18 M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzers and 2,500 other vehicles will be deployed to Poland.
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