NATO allies send 1,000 troops to help guard Vilnius summit

German air defense batteries at Vilnius Airport.
German air defense batteries at Vilnius Airport. Source: SCANPIX / EPA

Vilnius is hosting an additional 1,000 allied troops from 16 members for the July 11-12 NATO summit to be held in the Lithuanian capital. Patriot air defense batteries and additional fighter aircraft have also been brought in to ensure the security of leaders at the summit taking place just 32 kilometers from the border of Russia's ally Belarus.


"It would be more than irresponsible to leave our skies undefended while [U.S. Presiden Joe] Biden and 40 other leaders arrive in Vilnius," President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda said.

Germany has stationed 12 Patriot air defense batteries in Lithuania meant to counter ballistic and cruise missiles as well as hostile aircraft.

Spain has sent NASAMS air defense systems, while France will ship in Caesar mobile artillery. Finland, Denmark and France are set to station fighter jets in Lithuania, with the U.K. and France in charge of drone defenses.

Poland and Germany have also dispatched special units operating helicopters, while several other countries have provided equipment and specialists for countering chemical, biological and radiation threats.

The Lithuanian president added that these steps to ramp up security ahead of a summit clearly show that the allies should quickly set up permanent Baltic air defenses. "We are thinking ahead to the end of the summit. We are working with allies toward rotating permanent air defense," Nauseda said.

A Reuters correspondent reports that eight German Patrio air defense systems have been set up close to Vilnius Airport and aimed at the Kaliningrad Oblast, while another two are pointed toward the Belarusian border.

"You know where you are geographically, and you also have a pretty good idea of the direction of threats," Lt. Col. Steffen Lieb from the German air defense unit said. "Lithuania asked us for protection during the summit and NATO allies also approached us for support. This is our answer," Lieb added.

Lithuania has tripled border defense forces on its borders with Belarus and Russia and involved additional border guards from Latvia and Poland. Both countries have also dispatched police forces to Vilnius.

"We are ready for various provocations," said Rustamas Liubajevas, head of the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service. Liubajevas was referring to the possibility of a migrant wave hitting the border, other violations or unauthorized movement of military vehicles at the border.

Lithuania has also ramped up border checks with Latvia and Lithuania for the duration of the summit.


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Editor: Mait Ots, Marcus Turovski

Source: Reuters

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