The 1st Tank Battalion of the 9th Regiment of the 1st Division of the US Army arrived in Lithuania. This was announced on September 25 on its official website by the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense. In a statement, the agency notes that the American tank formation will be deployed near the city of Pabrade, which is located 10 km from the border with Belarus, until the spring of 2020. As a host, Vilnius will cover all costs, including military deployment and logistics.
According to the head of the Ministry of Defense of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis, earlier the country has repeatedly received units of the US troops, but this was carried out as part of specific exercises. This time, American troops arrive not for international maneuvers, but for long-term deployment.
“We are steadily and patiently striving to expand the long-term US military presence in Lithuania and throughout the region. In this context, the deployment of a battalion of the US Army for a longer period is excellent and long-awaited news, as well as the result of our efforts and investments. The presence of the US military is a crucial deterrent and will contribute to NATO’s efforts in the Baltic region, ”Karoblis said.
The US battalion in Lithuania will include about 500 troops, 30 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and another 70 vehicles.
US ground forces have been present on a rotational basis in the Baltic countries and Eastern Europe since spring 2014 as part of the Atlantic Resolve operation conducted by the American army in the eastern part of the territories covered by the alliance.
“Thus, America demonstrates its readiness to fulfill the obligations in the field of ensuring collective defense of NATO allies after the aggressive actions undertaken by Russia in Ukraine ... The United States is Lithuania’s strategic partner and its key ally in ensuring the security of the Baltic region, actively contributing to the implementation of the relevant measures to strengthen security and stability, ”the statement of the Lithuanian defense department also said.
In search of a defender
Recall that in mid-July of this year, Minister of Defense of Lithuania Raimundas Karoblis said that the authorities of his country would like to achieve the deployment of a permanent military contingent from the United States on its territory. Then, in an interview with the US defense portal Defense News, he indicated that even a small presence of the US military on a permanent basis in one of the Baltic states “will seriously strengthen NATO’s deterrent potential” with respect to Russia.
- American M1 Abrams tanks in the Baltic Saber Strike exercises
- © Ints Kalnins / Reuters
“Let's be honest: the USA is the most powerful ally, and their deterrent influence cannot be compared with the role of other allies. I am convinced that Russia will not dare to probe NATO if the US military units are located in the three Baltic states on an ongoing basis, ”Karoblis said.
His point of view was then supported by the former commander of the US ground forces in Europe, Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, who is now an expert in the American NGO Center for the Analysis of European Politics. According to him, it is necessary to deploy missile defense and air defense, intelligence, communications and rear services units in Lithuania - that is, the creation of a full-fledged military infrastructure is required.
In a conversation with RT, a military expert, retired colonel Viktor Litovkin recalled that in the Baltic states there has long been a rotation of NATO battalions.
“In addition, in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia there is an air squadron, which, as a rule, consists of Panavia Tornado and Eurofighter fighters - aircraft adapted to carry American atomic bombs,” the expert explained.
Litovkin added that the mere fact that NATO pilots know how to use these bombs is a gross violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. According to the expert, the United States and NATO do not observe such basic agreements as they do not keep the promise given in the early 1990s not to expand the alliance to the east and not to deploy military formations along the borders of Russia.
“Americans regularly, like all other treaties, violate this agreement,” Litovkin emphasized.
In addition, as noted by the head of the Department of Political Science and Sociology of the REU named after Plekhanova Andrei Koshkin, the deployment of the US Army armored battalion in Lithuania, has another goal.
“The political fissures that are forming today between the United States and European countries are forcing Americans to activate the North Atlantic Alliance in order to continue to subjugate its economic, political, including military will,” the expert said in an interview with RT.
The expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states is the main subject of disputes between NATO and Moscow. Russia recalls that the alliance continues to ignore and violate the guarantees of non-expansion, given in due time to the Russian side as one of the conditions for the unification of West and East Germany in 1990.
However, NATO did not follow these promises - the alliance began to rapidly expand its influence towards the Russian borders.
- NATO forces cross the Neman River at the Saber Strike exercises in 2018
- © Andrius Sytas
In 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (ABM) Treaty, shortly after which Washington began deploying such systems in countries of Eastern Europe that joined the alliance.
In 2014, after the events in Ukraine and the reunification of the Republic of Crimea with Russia, Washington and the NATO leadership began to openly declare Russia's confrontation in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states.
In 2016, the alliance countries agreed to deploy multinational battalions in the Baltic states, which would operate on a rotational basis and were controlled from the new command center in Poland.
The frequency of military exercises conducted by the North Atlantic bloc in the Baltic countries has also significantly increased. Major maneuvers under the auspices of NATO in 2019 have already taken place in Estonia and Poland, including large-scale naval exercises Baltops 2019.
From September 23 to October 6, Silver Arrow maneuvers (“Silver Arrow”) take place in Latvia, in which troops from Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the NATO combat group led by Canada take part.
In a few more weeks - from October 28 to November 10, the Furious Ax exercises (“The Furious Ax”) will take place in Latvia with the participation of the Latvian military and the NATO combat group stationed in Estonia under the leadership of the British Armed Forces.
According to Andrei Koshkin, the deployment of the US Army armored battalion in Lithuania once again testifies to the approach of the US military to the borders of Russia, in violation of non-expansion agreements.
In turn, Viktor Litovkin emphasized that the presence of the US military in Lithuania will further increase the tension caused by the buildup of the American group in Eastern Europe.
“We will see how Belarus will react to the fact that 10 km from its border are American tanks and 500 American troops who will be aimed at making a throw on Belarusian soil. Of course, Minsk is on the way of NATO troops to the territory of Russia, ”said Litovkin.
NATO and the United States understand that Belarus and Russia are in the format of a union state, Andrei Koshkin added.
“In addition, they know that countries once every two years conduct exercises at the training grounds of the Russian Federation or Belarus, therefore Minsk is seen as a reliable ally, partner of Russia. Such a battalion of 500 people and several dozens of units of tank equipment is a pretty solid compound, which is able to solve deep tactical problems. However, today all the threats to Russia are compensated by both mirror and asymmetric measures, so its placement should not cause great concern, ”the expert concluded.