NATO commander: Currently no threat to Baltic states from Russia, Belarus
NATO has not seen any sign of a possible attack on Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania, Chair of the NATO Military Committee Rob Bauer said during a visit to Vilnius on Monday.
Russia and Belarus will hold joint military drills in Belarus this month, which has set Lithuania on edge. According to NATO, around 30,000 Russian troops will be deployed in Belarus.
On Monday, the Lithuanian Armed Forces raised their readiness level, public broadcaster LRT reported.
Speaking at a press conference, Bauer said: "If you look at the posture of the Russian troops in Belarus then, yes, you have to consider militarily whether it is a threat to the Baltic states and more particular to Lithuania now. But then of course you have to look at intent as well, are there indications that the Russians or Belarus has an intention to hurt the Baltic states and, in particular, Lithuania? And up until now, we don't see an intent, we don't expect an attack on NATO soil by Russia - either directly or via Belarus."
Bauer said an invasion of Ukraine could be possible at the end of February.
On Monday, Estonia's Ministry of Defense Permanent Secretary Kusti Salm told journalists the number of Russian troops in Belarus is "unprecedented".
On Friday, he said Estonia would send assistance to Lithuania if requested but, at the same time, emphasized there is currently no direct military threat to the country.
Last month, Russia sent a list of demands to NATO countries that stipulated no more countries should be allowed to join the defense alliance and the door should be shut to Ukraine. Additionally, the NATO border should be rolled back to how it was in 1997. This was before the Baltic states, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria joined the alliance.
The Baltics and Poland have requested more assistance from NATO to show the alliance is in support of the eastern flank countries. So far, the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands have agreed to send additional troops or equipment, such as fighter jets or patrol ships, to the region.
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Editor: Helen Wright