On the borders of Russia, why did Lithuania establish a new US military base?

Translation introduction:

Jacqueline Feldscher, senior correspondent specializing in US national security, prepared a report published by Defense One magazine, in which she sheds light on the new military base opened by Lithuania, located in Eastern Europe, for the American forces that are deployed periodically in the country, and reviewed the different points of view regarding the If this base, located near the Russian border, is a threat to Moscow. It also addressed the hints of officials in Lithuania that the US presence in the country becomes permanent, not periodic.

Translation text:

Lithuania loves America unmistakably, and officials say that the majority of the local population supports the presence of American forces, and is comfortable with the sound of tank fire because it serves as a reminder to them of the protection that surrounds them. Even the Lithuanian Ministry of Defense sponsored during the events of a conference Comic Con Baltic (Annual conference that brings together fans of comics and cartoons) 2019 Two superheroes meet for the first time: Captain America and Captain Lithuania.

The American soldiers found generous hospitality in the “Herkosh” camp, Lithuania, on this remote base, which opened Last August and now home to hundreds of American soldiers, government officials enthusiastically bragged about the new €7 million headquarters, which includes a treadmill-equipped gym, synthetic-turf basketball courts surrounded by caravanserais, cigarette and candy stores, and a ballroom. Games where soldiers play video games.

However, it is not only about the comfort of the Vilnius guests, but the Lithuanian capital aims to entice Washington to convert the periodic deployment of its military forces to become a permanent residence, and then repel the Russian forces that are deployed and trained in Belarus periodically a few kilometers away from it. Andhas said Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvidas Anusauskas at the opening of the base: “We hope that this new base in ‘Paprade’ will be a second home for American forces.”

Several weeks later, Anauschauskas made the same point in a tweet welcoming General Christopher Cavoli, the commander of the US Army in Europe and Africa, saying: “The need for American forces to deploy is more evident than ever, and we are creating all the necessary conditions for American forces to maintain ready.” و .ضافت Ingrida Shimonites, Prime Minister of Lithuania: “The presence and training of US forces in Lithuania alongside our forces is the best deterrent.”

The White House hesitates

In Washington, the Biden administration and military officials have not said whether they are seriously considering a permanent base for US forces in one of the Baltic states, and even White House officials have refused to comment on the matter. The Pentagon spokesperson thanked Lithuania for its investment, but was cautious about whether better accommodations and plans to improve training facilities would make a difference, displaying diplomatic and political sensitivity about raising the military presence on Russia’s doorstep.

“Lithuania has always been an amazing host of our men and women recruits within its borders, and we appreciate the investment that Lithuania has made in modernizing and expanding its infrastructure which supported US and NATO forces in their training and maneuvers. Smelroth indicated that Pentagon officials are currently reviewing the deployment of their soldiers around the world and their consistency with US national security goals, according to Guidance President Biden issued it last February.

Lithuania is not the only Eastern European ally desperately seeking a long-term US commitment. In 2018, Poland offered to name one of its military bases after President Trump in exchange for the permanent presence of thousands of additional American soldiers. she died The idea was in its infancy last year, but the United States Dear Its forces and armament are there. The United States has maintained a regular presence of hundreds of troops in Lithuania since October 2019, and some lawmakers see the new and permanent presence of American forces close to the Russian border as a signal to Moscow of a stronger American commitment to defend its Baltic allies.

The danger of a Russian invasion

Lithuanian officials say their people feel a deep threat from Russia, and the citizens of Lithuania, which borders Belarus to the east and Russia’s Kaliningrad province to the southwest, are acutely aware of the danger. Increase military equipment For Russia that can take over Lithuania and eliminate it from NATO. Lithuanian officials argue that if the Russian attack occurred, reinforcements would arrive from NATO countries after the Russians had swept the country, which is equal in size to the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

Officials in Vilnius are pressing the Pentagon to approve a permanent stationing of US forces in the country to deter this potential Russian invasion. Lithuanian officials believe that if Moscow decides to attack, it could help US forces in a quick response once other Allied forces from western Europe pour into the Baltics.

In the United States, military planners and analysts debate whether a permanent military presence is better or a periodic deployment. I preferred In the past years, the Ministry of Defense has deployed patrol forces for short periods in various countries from Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific, instead of deploying permanent and huge military forces stationed in the historical bases of the American forces. The reasons for this range from cost and political sensitivities to the host country and the need for forces to be more mobile and mobile rather than an easy catch for current high-tech threats.

However, the transportation costs associated with the regular presence are a bit prohibitive, and some argue that the time for soldiers to focus on their mission becomes roughly two months between the time they spend preparing and acclimatizing, and the time they spend getting ready to leave after the mission is over. But the rotation mechanism makes the area familiar to more American soldiers, and allows units to practice logistics skills such as transporting tanks to eastern Europe, something that would be important to do quickly if Russia attacked. Finally, analysts believe that it will be difficult for the Biden administration to meet Lithuania’s request, especially as the president is redirecting his country’s attention to China and the Indo-Pacific region.

US presence in Lithuania

Soldiers stand during the opening ceremony of the U.S. army camp Herkus, in Pabrade, Lithuania, August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

Lt. Col. Paul Godson, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, surrounded by dozens of Abrams tanks that were roaming the Pabrade military training area, told Defense One that his soldiers appreciate the facilities at Camp Harkush. , which shows that the Lithuanians “really invested” in keeping US forces in their country, but he said that the operations and training of the permanent forces would be similar to what his soldiers are doing now. As for June duniA professor at the US Army War College, he said that the image of a permanent presence is important to everyone, then added: “With the complete lack of permanent concentration, we will have problems reassuring the allies of our commitment and steadfastness, and we will have problems deterring the Russians.”

The Pentagon’s regular deployment in Lithuania began two years ago with 500 troops, 30 Abrams tanks, and 25 Bradley armored fighting vehicles. In the summer of this year, Godson’s forces arrived in the region to be stationed for nine months in Pabrade, a town in eastern Lithuania less than 16 kilometers from the border with Belarus and closer to Lithuania’s main military training facility. As NATO decided to put Battalion-sized combat squad In Rukla, Lithuania since 2017 led by Germany.

For its part, Lithuania has recently taken financial and diplomatic steps to appear as an attractive partner to the United States, including Confront China firmly. In April, Lithuanian politicians convened Listening session On China’s violation of human rights in Xinjiang, they voted in May to issue condemnation official genocide perpetrated against the Uighurs. In August, Vilnius angered Beijing by allowing Taiwan to open a diplomatic representation office in its name, and then China recalled its ambassador to Lithuania, threatening “possible consequences” if the office remained open. This Windfall Lithuania’s pro-democracy opposition movement in its neighbor Belarus.

The Biden administration picked up on those signals from Vilnius, and Sullivan spoke by phone with Shimonites, the prime minister, last month, expressing to her “the United States’ strong support for Lithuania in the face of Chinese pressure attempts,” and affirming the United States’ “deep appreciation for the country’s foreign policy of upholding democracy and human rights.” According to the transcript of the call released by the White House. In Congress, Republican Representative Don Bacon expressed his “pride” for Lithuania to stand up to China, saying, “Lithuania now stands somewhat on its own, and I would like the US administration to take note of that and provide it with some support.”

On the military front, Lithuania has more than tripled its defense spending since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea in Ukraine, and has met the NATO target of spending at least 2% of GDP on defense since 2018. Over the next five years Lithuania intends to spend more than $500 million on American-made equipment, including light tactical vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters, manufactured by the American company “Sikorsky”.

The new gym at Camp Hirkush may give US soldiers a chance to have a good time, but it will take greater investment in military training facilities for US forces to be truly combat-ready. as he said Ben HodgesThe former commander of the United States Army in Europe: “Our enemies are not afraid of basketball players, it is not only a question of barracks and the presence of soldiers in them.”

The West prefers cyclical existence

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda speaks to media during the opening of the U.S. army camp Herkus, in Pabrade, Lithuania, August 30, 2021. REUTERS/Janis Laizans

In contrast, any decision by the Biden administration regarding the deployment of American forces must take into account the cost to US taxpayers, and in this regard, Godson, the commander of the American battalion in Lithuania, says that the periodic presence is a little more expensive, but it provides special advantages, when it moves Soldiers to Eastern Europe would be forced to do logistical work such as transporting equipment through ports, and switching train lines of different widths between Western and Eastern Europe, and he added, “We can actually conclude that we will lose some flexibility” if the United States made its presence in Lithuania always.

Also, a permanent military presence in Lithuania may conflict with Constitutive Act on Relations between NATO and Russia Which was signed in 1997. According to the agreement, “in the current security environment and in the near future” NATO will not permanently deploy “large combat forces” along the border with Russia. In return, Russia committed itself to respecting the borders of Eastern European countries. The language used opened the door to several interpretations, as it seems clear to some experts that the security environment currently differs from what it was at the time of the signing of the agreement a quarter of a century ago. “When Russia invaded Ukraine, it scrapped the whole agreement,” says Hodges.

Despite this, some NATO member states, notably Germany, believe that the alliance should “uphold the moral preference” and abide by the spirit of the agreement. Hodges said France and the Netherlands would also view a permanent presence as a “largely provocative move”, and the Biden administration might then have to “make a hard diplomatic effort” to get the support of allies.

Peter Szymansky, a research fellow in the Regional Security Program at the Center for Oriental Studies in Poland, argues that Russia may see the reinforcement of the military presence as an escalatory step, but Moscow does consider the periodic deployment as evidence of NATO hostility, while Lithuanian officials argue that the permanent military presence in The region would calm tensions with Russia, because it would enhance mutual deterrence, and because America could offer protection unlike any other ally.


This report is translated from Defense One It does not necessarily represent the site of Medan.

Translation: Hadeer Abdel Azim.

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