The Commander of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, Lieutenant General Valdemaras Rupšys, who is currently visiting the United States, says that American forces stationed in Lithuania – which shares a border with Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea, as well as with Belarus and Latvia – have switched their stance from deterrence of Russia to combat readiness.
Ever since 2019, battalion-sized US units with around 500 troops equipped with Abrams tanks and Bradley armored vehicles have been stationed in the eastern Lithuanian city of Pabrade on a rotation basis.
In an interview for radio LRT on Friday, the NATO member’s top general noted that while the main factor for the American forces used to be deterrence, the situation has now changed, and those units are being deployed so that they can fight immediately.
As Rupšys explained, it’s a seamless transition from one mode to another, underscoring that at least until 2025, Lithuania will have rotating US units that, on top of carrying out military training, will serve as a factor of deterrence and will be ready to carry out defensive actions together with other NATO allies.
The Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley reportedly assured the Lithuanian chief of defense that the US troops would have a persistent presence in his country.
NATO, which also maintains a German-led multinational unit in Lithuania, announced back in June the enhancement of its military capabilities that will see the alliance’s rapid-response force grow from around 40,000 to over 300,000 in response to Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday that NATO’s actions signify its return to conceptual priorities adopted during the Cold War whereas Moscow repeatedly stated that it considers the alliance’s troops near its borders a national security threat.