In Lithuania, the news of the mass transfer of US Abrams tanks to the Baltic States starting October 14, 2019 as part of the US operation Atlantic Decision was received with great pleasure. Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis said that this is “a message for Russia.” But Alexander Lukashenko was alarmed. The fact is that the Abrams are now located just 15 kilometers from the border with Belarus. Therefore, Lukashenko instructed the Secretary of State of his Security Council and the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus to develop and urgently submit an action plan in response to the deployment of armored vehicles and contingents of the US armed forces in Lithuania.
Minsk has never had such a public reaction to the deployment of NATO forces in Lithuania. Probably, the headquarters of Russia and Belarus are secretly reacting, as expected, but this is the usual work of the military: planning a response, reconnaissance, stockpiling, and so on. But then the State Secretary of the Security Council of Belarus Stanislav Zas suddenly informed reporters about the order of Alexander Grigoryevich. So, Alexander Grigoryevich (Lukashenko) instructed and inform the whole world about his concerns.
What worries him so much? Zasia said that the Pabrade training ground was literally 15 km from the border with Belarus. This is not a secret, the media write about it. Pabrade is a small town 50 km from Vilnius. Under Soviet rule, there was a tank unit. Now – Lithuanian, NATO.
– This is one of the largest military training grounds in Lithuania. Until now, there were no American units in this country. Now they appear there. First of all, tank units arrived, ”said the Secretary of State for the Security Council.
Information is inaccurate. In fact, since 2014, a company of American troops — about 200 people — was deployed in Lithuania on the principle of rotation. It was a kind of anticipation of the mythical aggression of the “green men” after the entry of Crimea into Russia as a result of a referendum, called in the West either annexation or occupation. But then at the Warsaw NATO summit in July 2016, they decided to deploy international battalions of the alliance of thousands each in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland. Since Lithuania, such a battalion has been under the command of Germany since 2017, in Latvia – Canada, in Estonia – the United Kingdom, and in Poland – the USA.
The American rotary company was then withdrawn from Lithuania. And in the deployment of the US military in Lithuania now, the difference with the previous one is significant – it will be 500 troops – the first battalion of the 9th regiment of the 1st division of the US armed forces. In Pabrad, 29 Abrams tanks, 25 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, and 70 wheeled vehicles will be delivered. The other day, the first eight Abrams tanks and 21 Bradley vehicles arrived, Captain Gintautas Tsunis, representative of the Lithuanian army’s public relations agency, told BNS.
But most importantly: is there a long-term deployment of this tank battalion?
– We have consistently and patiently sought to expand the long-term US military presence in Lithuania and throughout the region. Therefore, the arrival of the US Army battalion for a long period is the expected news, the result of our long-term efforts and investments, – said Raimundas Karoblis.
Here it is worth paying attention to the statement of the President of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda: on October 15, in connection with the departure of Americans from the Turkish operation in Syria and Washington’s refusal to help the Kurds, he nevertheless expressed his full confidence in the United States and expressed hope for America’s continued military presence in republic. That is, in Lithuania, a long-term NATO military program is being implemented, involving the movement of US troops to the borders of Belarus and Russia.
– The arrival of the battalion demonstrates a serious approach to us and serious involvement, since it is precisely with such units of the USA that they usually conduct exercises, – said Lithuanian Defense Minister to BNS. According to him, these exercises are important for the development by the US unit of methods of delivery from the seaport to the site of the exercises. The US military will familiarize themselves with their new geography and weather conditions, share their experience with Lithuania, that is, they will advise on how to organize mechanized ground forces, Karoblis said.
Stanislav Zas, speaking to reporters, emphasized that in this situation one cannot be just an observer.
- In any country, response measures are being worked out. And the head of state (Belarus) set the task to the State Secretariat and the Ministry of Defense to make proposals on how to respond to this fact. Such proposals will be worked out and reported to the President early next week, – BelTA quotes its agency.
Media reports: US tankers will conduct exercises in Lithuania until the spring of 2020. And what about in the spring? And in the spring it is even cooler. Large-scale NATO maneuvers will take place in the territory of ten European countries, including Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia adjacent to Belarus.
– This is one of the largest exercises in the last 25 years. About 40 thousand troops from 18 NATO member countries will take part in them. And besides, about half of these servicemen are from the USA, – Stanislav Zas said.
According to him, the peculiarity of these maneuvers is to work out the issues of troop transfer from the US to the European continent.
– In various ways: by sea, by air – using the seaports of European countries, airfields. And by land from the bases that were created in Europe, – he said. His words coincide with the media report quoted above by the Minister of Defense of Lithuania.
– We are all witnessing an increase in confrontation between centers of power. Unfortunately, there is a practice of returning to the policy of militarization and the arms race. The military spending of all our neighbors has been growing in recent years. Not only are they larger than in Belarus both in monetary units and as a percentage of GDP, but they are growing. That is, the militarization of this region is evident. In such a situation, it is planned to conduct exercises, – said the Secretary of State Security Council.
Apparently, this time we are faced with difficult exercises, therefore, their preparation aroused special attention of the President of Belarus. And the matter is not only and, most likely, not so much in dozens of Abrams tanks in Lithuania. BELTA recalls the statement of Alexander Lukashenko on October 11 at the CIS summit in Ashgabat:
– For some reason, NATO decided in just a few months to conduct large-scale exercises at our borders and involve as many thousands as it never did. These are Poland and the Baltic countries. It is not normal. This does not mean that the peace has come to the territory of Europe, and such centers will not arise in the future. These are incomprehensible teachings, – said President Lukashenko.
And earlier, on October 8, at the international conference “European Security: move away from the edge of the abyss” in Minsk, he spoke about this.
One gets the impression that the President of Belarus is worried about something extremely serious and known to him, probably not only from the media …