U.S. to "step up" Baltic military presence

Lithuanian public media LRT reported December 7 that the United States is to "step up" its military presence in the Baltic states with similar moves following soon after in Latvia and Estonia.

The deployment of U.S. forces in Lithuania will have change of status from so-called "episodic deployments" to a "persistent rotational presence”, the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius said on Wednesday. 

“US Ambassador Robert Gilchrist informed Minister of National Defense Arvydas Anušauskas that, as part of the ongoing commitment to its Baltic Allies, the United States will further enhance the continuous and persistent US military presence in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania,” the embassy wrote in a press release.

“In Lithuania, this initially includes transitioning the episodic deployments of an armoured battalion-sized element and field artillery battery to a persistent rotational presence,” it added.

The US battalion has been deployed at the Pabradė training area close to Vilnius since 2019, with longer or shorter breaks between rotations.

At the NATO Summit in Madrid, President Biden committed to enhanced rotational deployments and a heel-to-toe presence of US forces in the Baltic region, the embassy said.

“As President Biden has said, we are committed to defending every inch of NATO territory. These US deployments demonstrate this commitment, and while we continue to adapt our force posture in the region, we are committed to maintaining a persistent, heel-to-toe presence in the region and intensifying training with our Baltic Allies to maintain combat credible capabilities and to enhance our defence and deterrence posture,” the US ambassador was quoted in the press release.

On December 8, a similar announcement was made concerning the U.S. presence in Latvia, according to the Latvian Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile in Estonia December 8 it was confirmed that the U.S. will deploy an additional infantry company and a HIMARS platoon, as well as associated command and control equipment and systems.

“Estonia continues to take significant steps to develop its independent self-defense capabilities. We expect to receive our own HIMARS systems by 2025, so being able to learn the ropes early with the U.S. troops will make the adoption even smoother and win us critical time,” said Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur.

HIMARS is regarded as the most modern and sophisticated long-range fires system in the world today, which will provide significant firepower and strategic effects. The Estonian Defense Forces will also work with the United States on establishing a divisional structure in Estonia under the framework of NATO. Estonia will join the renowned U.S. Warfighter program comprising a series of exercises culminating in a capstone training event that will give certification to the participating corps and division formations.

“The Estonian division will receive rigorous training to further develop its readiness and interoperability with our closest Allies in order to defend Estonia and the Alliance,” said Minister Pevkur.

The posture and rotations reflect ongoing efforts by Allies to increase their defensive capabilities and interoperability to ensure that every inch of NATO territory is defended without delay. The efforts have been redoubled in response to Europe’s deteriorating security environment and in particular to Russia’s unprovoked aggression and brutal war against Ukraine.

 

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