Amid the tensions at the Ukrainian-Russian border, the this Baltic country is ramping up its military spending and beefing up its military arsenal along with its NATO allies in the region to respond to a possible Russian threat. The Lithuanian defense budget is said to be over the 2% GDP NATO threshold, reaching over $1.3 billion in 2021. What have they been doing with all the money?
In the first few weeks of January, it was reported that the Lithuanian government had accelerated its purchase of multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) from Lockheed Martin, specifically the M270 MLRS. These rocket systems are simply self-propelled rocket launchers used by countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, South Korea, and Japan. The Lithuanian government initially wanted to purchase the system in 2028 and has now moved the purchase date to 2026.
Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas stated that the reason for this acceleration was because of continued security threats around the region, which requires it to have the capacity to defend itself. This purchase will be made in coordination with Estonia and Latvia so that the three Baltic states will have long-range weapons to respond to any threats in Eastern Europe.
More so, the Lithuanian government has allocated $364 million to purchase not only these MLRS but also military helicopters and armored vehicles to support its own military arsenal and allies in the region. Many analysts have stated that this increase in investment in weapons is due to the heavy military activity along the Belarusian border and Russia’s joint exercises with the nation. Another potential motive for the investment is to increase reactiveness in the case of an invasion, where it would have to support its NATO allies, including the United States, which has long complained that NATO countries have not been spending enough on their own defense obligations to the alliance.
In fact, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, just a few days ago, had called for Germany and the United States to send more troops to their country so that they could collectively send a message to Russia and Belarus. Nauseda claimed that the current military tensions at the border being instigated by the 100,000 strong Russian troops is “the most dangerous situation since regaining independence.”
This urgency comes after the United States had announced that it would be sending a small number of roops to Europe in response to military posturing by Russia. It was reported that 2,000 additional soldiers were being sent by the US to Europe and that 1,000 US troops were to be sent in from Germany to Romania to add to the collective defensive effort from NATO.
As per Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko, the moves made by the United States in terms of deploying more troops to NATO allies, which he called “destructive steps, which increase military tension and reduce the scope for a political decision.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg approved of US President Joe Biden’s decision to send more troops to Europe. He stated that the deployment was a sign of strong US commitment to NATO and European security. However, the US legislative parties are quite divided on the subject. Republican Senator Mike Braun stated that he strongly opposed the decision of the US to deploy the American military into Eastern Europe. He went on to say that these countries should learn how to defend themselves so that the US wouldn’t have to be involved in another 20-year conflict, referring to the war in Afghanistan.
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