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NATO nations are looking to Germany as they plan to beef up defenses along Europe’s eastern flank amid thinly veiled threats issued by Russia and its continued assault against Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday.
Former Soviet nations like Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of which are NATO member nations, have looked to the alliance for aid as Moscow ramps up its threats against their sovereignty.
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Several NATO allies – including the US and UK – increased troop presence and training in Eastern Europe following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, but vulnerable nations are asking for more.
“In light of the brutal invasion of Ukraine, it’s even more important that the NATO allies step up their support to other partners that are vulnerable for Russian aggression,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Germany, which has already doubled its presence in Lithuania since the war began, is looking to boost its force posture in the former Soviet nation by implementing a “pre-assigned” force plan.
These forces will be earmarked for Lithuanian defenses without necessarily being stationed in the country full time – a plan that other nations are now looking to employ.
Stoltenberg said “pre-assigned” forces have not been assigned to specific countries since the Cold War.
But the NATO chief said more strategic defenses will be implemented to shore up the alliance’s security in the east, including in the naval, air and cyber arenas along with increased weapons stockpiles.
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A combination of pre-stationed artillery and ammunition will be increasingly deployed to vulnerable nations to avoid any lag time should Russia extend its aggression beyond Ukraine’s borders.
Russian lawmakers have introduced legislation that would repeal Moscow’s recognition of Lithuanian sovereignty, claiming it illegally left the Soviet Union in the early 1990s and similar threats have been levied at neighboring nations.
It is unclear if Baltic nations like Lithuania will be satisfied with the proposal to have “prep-assigned” forces that are ready to be deployed but stationed over 600 miles away in Germany.
Stoltenberg said the force structure’s details have not been completely ironed out but added that the plan would include a combination of increased military presence, command and control and pre-positioned equipment.
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“Not all of them will be deployed permanently in Lithuania or in any other countries in the eastern part of the Alliance,” he told reporters. “They will know the country, the territory, they have worked together on interoperability, working with the home defense forces, and they have pre-designed tasks.”
NATO leaders are expected to formally announce and sign off on a coordinated plan during the Madrid summit at the end of this month.