NATO to increase high-readiness forces to 300,000
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Russia accused Lithuania of cutting off passage to one of its exclaves last week, stating the country had prevented trucking and train routes from reaching Kaliningrad. Moscow claimed the country would face “retaliation” as it sought to protect the region, which is sandwiched between two NATO members. The threat has prompted fears of a military clash between Russia and the military organisation as Lithuania accused the country of lying.
Will Russia attack Lithuania?
Kaliningrad Oblast is a point of vulnerability for Russia, which administers the territory annexed by the Soviet Union in World War Two from several hundred miles away.
The territory has two NATO member neighbours, Poland to its South and Lithuania to its Northeast.
Moscow has accused Lithuania of choking a rail supply line based in the town of Kybartai, warning the alleged “hostile” action would warrant a response.
Nikolai Patrushev, a Putin advisor and chief of the Kremlin’s Security Council, visited Kaliningrad on June 21.
During his visit, he claimed Russia would “certainly respond to such hostile action”.
He said Moscow would react “in the near future” with measures that would have a “serious negative impact on the population of Lithuania”.
The threat rang alarm bells across Europe, with leaders hoping to sidestep an all-out war between NATO and Russia.
But Lithuanian officials aren’t convinced Russia will respond with attacks on their territory.
Peter Nielsen, a NATO colonel commanding a unit from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, said there was no sign of impending military action from Russia.
He told the New York Times he “didn’t sleep well” in the months running up to Russia’s initial invasion but now sleeps “very well”.
Mr Nielsen added NATO is “tracking what they do, not what they say”, as he added a strike against Lithuania was unlikely “even if they are crazy”.
Other Baltic leaders do not echo the colonel’s confidence, as they believe they need more NATO protection.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have called for increased attention to their region, now much changed by Russia’s invasion in February.
They have called for the alliance to update its “tripwire” focus ahead of its June 29 to 30 summit.
The tripwire championed by NATO would see a smaller assemblage of troops gather where aggressors breach a border.
But Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said it would leave her country at risk of being “overrun” by Russian invaders.
She warned Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, would be “wiped off the map” without better support.
A spokesman from the Estonian foreign ministry said there was a “shared understanding” that the tripwire approach – at least as it stands – is “obsolete”.
They told CNBC: “We need a credible military construct on the Eastern flank that will deter Putin. This should include more Allied presence.”
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