Scholz visits NATO's eastern flank – Balten call for reinforcements

Chancellor Scholz has never been so close to Russia since the beginning of the Ukraine war: less than 200 kilometers as the crow flies from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, today he is visiting the Germans stationed on NATO’s eastern flank Soldiers.

Vilnius.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz has arrived in Lithuania for a visit. The SPD politician was received in the capital Vilnius by President Gitanas Nauseda.

This was followed by a meeting with the heads of government of all three Baltic states. In addition to Lithuania, this also includes Latvia and Estonia. For Scholz, this is the first visit to a NATO country that borders Russia and feels particularly threatened by the nuclear power since the start of the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine more than three months ago.

The program also includes an encounter with Bundeswehr soldiers who are stationed in Lithuania to secure NATO’s eastern flank. At a summit meeting of the military alliance at the end of the month in Madrid, it will also be a question of whether the troops on the alliance’s eastern flank will be increased again. Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens) had already promised a “substantial contribution” from Germany during a visit to Lithuania in April. German soldiers are currently 1000 stationed in Lithuania.

Baltians want a stronger NATO presence

In the run-up to the trip, the Baltic states pushed for a stronger NATO presence in the eastern alliance area. The NATO summit in Madrid must become a “summit of decisions” and mark the “transition from deterrence to forward defense,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda of the German Press Agency before the Scholz trip. In addition to air defense systems, he hopes that a NATO brigade will be stationed in his country, which would correspond to about 1600 to 5000 soldiers. Currently it is 1600.

Latvia’s President Egils Levits is also hoping for “concrete proposals” from the Scholz visit for stronger protection of the eastern NATO alliance area. “We expect that Germany will also keep an eye on NATO’s overall security and will therefore also support this increase in NATO’s presence in all three Baltic states,” Levits told dpa. “The Baltic States and Germany agree that NATO’s eastern flank must be strengthened in response to Russia’s aggressive behavior.”

Along with Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Norway, Lithuania is one of the five NATO countries that share a land border with Russia. With Finland, a sixth could soon be added. In the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which is not 200 kilometers away as the crow flies, missiles are stationed that can reach the entire Baltic region, all of Poland and even Berlin.

Different attitudes towards EU prospects for Ukraine

Protection against the Russian threat will not be the only topic of Scholz’s visit. Support for Ukraine in the fight against Russian invaders and the country’s European perspective will also be discussed. While the Baltic states are in favor of making Ukraine a candidate for EU membership, the German government has not yet made a decision.

Scholz first wants to take care of the admission of the accession candidates in the Balkans. With regard to Ukraine, he emphasizes that there should be no shortcuts for the country on the way to the EU.

French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested new forms of cooperation with countries like Ukraine because EU membership is not achievable within a few years. Nauseda has expressed skepticism about this. “I get the impression that this is an attempt to cover up the apparent lack of political will to make decisions about granting candidate status.” (dpa)

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