Germany Vows to Defend Baltic Nations From Russian Attack

(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged to defend Germany’s three Baltic NATO allies in case of a Russian attack and to complete the establishment of a permanent brigade in Lithuania by the end of 2027.

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“Germany is determined to defend every inch of alliance territory,” Scholz said Monday after talks in Riga with his counterparts from Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, saying the security of the three nations bordering Russia and Belarus is also key for Germany’s safety.

“And I would also like to say this here: an attack on you would also be an attack on all of us,” he added, at a joint news conference with Latvia’s Evika Silina, Estonia’s Kaja Kallas and Lithuania’s Ingrida Simonyte.

A preliminary command of some 20 German soldiers arrived in Lithuania in April and is set to expand to around 150 personnel by the end of the year.

As many as 5,000 soldiers will be permanently stationed at the military bases of Rukla near Kaunas in central Lithuania and Rudninkai near the capital Vilnius and the border with Belarus.

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Speaking alongside Scholz during a visit to a German tank battalion in Lithuania earlier Monday, President Gitanas Nauseda urged Germany to speed up the new deployment, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats against other former Soviet states.

“We can’t afford the luxury of wasting even a minute,” Nauseda warned.

Sending a brigade to the Baltic states is part of Scholz’s “historic turning point” in military policy, which he proclaimed in a speech to parliament only a few days after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Despite Germany’s strict rules on borrowing, Scholz pushed through a debt-financed special fund to modernize the Bundeswehr armed forces worth €100 billion ($108 billion). It helped Germany lift defense spending above 2% of economic output as pledged by NATO allies.

“Germany is investing massively in the expansion of its defense capabilities,” Scholz told reporters in Lithuania, on what is his third trip to the region since taking office in 2021.

“This is linked to the decision that investment in the military will account for 2% of our economic output in the long term, year after year. That has been achieved this year and will not change again.”

In addition to the permanent stationing of a brigade in Lithuania, Germany is strengthening NATO’s eastern flank with the ongoing air policing mission over the Baltic nations and a German-led Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup.

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“We are all well aware of the shadow war that Russia is waging against our societies,” Estonia’s Kallas told reporters.

“We need to make it clear to Kremlin that we are aware of their methods, we will expose them, and the Russian tactics will have consequences,” she added. “Together we are stronger militarily, economically and in our effort to counter destabilizing activities.”

--With assistance from Milda Seputyte and Ott Tammik.

(Updates with Scholz, Kallas comments starting in third paragraph)

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