VDefense Minister Christine Lambrecht visited the German contingent of the strengthened NATO presence (eFP) in Lithuania. Around 500 Bundeswehr soldiers are stationed northwest of the capital Vilnius, together with Lithuanian and other NATO forces. Lambrecht took off on an Air Force plane early on Sunday morning and returned to Berlin that afternoon.
“My first mission trip takes me to Lithuania quite deliberately,” she said, according to the agency in Rukla. Germany stands “firmly by the side of our partners and friends”. The excellent cooperation will be continued. In an interview with “Bild am Sonntag”, Lambrecht said with a view to the current tensions: “Very clearly: the aggressor is Russia. We have to exhaust all possibilities to stop an escalation. “
The minister spoke of using “the whole set of instruments that we have”. Lambrecht added in an unusually sharp tone that the current issue is “targeting Putin and his environment”, those responsible for the aggression must feel personal consequences, “for example, that they can no longer travel to the Champs-Élysées in Paris to shop “. When asked whether she would be ready to send Bundeswehr soldiers to the Ukraine, Lambrecht replied to the newspaper: “We have to exhaust all options of diplomacy and economic sanctions. And all further steps must be closely coordinated in the alliance. “
“Can understand the concern of the allies”
At a joint press conference with the Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas in Lithuania, Lambrecht said: “I can understand the concerns of our Baltic allies and understand when you feel threatened.” She is convinced, according to Lambrecht, that the tense situation must be resolved diplomatically. “At the same time, however, a credible deterrent is required. A very important signal. With its troops at eFP, Germany is making an important contribution to deterrence in the alliance. “
Members of the German-Dutch tank battalion 414 are currently stationed in Rukla together with Lithuanian and other NATO forces. They had reinforced the eastern flank after the Russian invasion of Crimea and the attacks on eastern Ukraine. In Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, a rotating combat group with around 1000 soldiers each has been stationed since then. Germany has been the leading nation in Lithuania since 2017. In Estonia it is the British, in Latvia the NATO country Canada and in Poland American forces.
Russia made it clear over the weekend that it is not ready to withdraw its troops from the border with Ukraine. Corresponding Western demands, which concern “any measures in our area”, “trigger a natural repulsion with us” and are “unacceptable and inappropriate,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of the Interfax news agency.
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