German military presence will remain in the Baltic States ‘as long as needed’, said German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel as he visited the country’s troops in Lithuania. Gabriel also accused Russia of “irrational” build-up at the border.

 

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Gabriel was visiting the 400 German troops stationed in the town of Rukla, who were deployed to Lithuania as part of NATO’s buildup along the Russian borders.  The first German soldiers started arriving in Rukla in early February, with the contingent expected to reach 1,200 in spring.

 

According to NATO, the move is aimed at reassuring the bloc’s Eastern European members in view of Russia’s reunion with Crimea in 2014 and its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, which Moscow denies.

 

The German minister stressed that the country’s troops will stay at the base in Lithuania “as long as needed” and mentioned the presence of Russian troops at the border.

 

“The military potential that the Russian Federation has built up here at the border is completely irrational in my view because there is zero threat emanating from these countries,” Gabriel told reporters.

 

In January, 2,800 pieces of US military hardware and 4,000 deployed to Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Germany, were the operation’s headquarters are located. Germany, Canada and Britain are also sending battalions of up to 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as part of the buildup.

 

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen was visiting an air base in Estonia’s Amari, assuring the Baltic States of Berlin’s commitment to protect them.

 

 

 

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