The presidents of both Latvia and Lithuania have used the occasion of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's visit to Vilnius on Tuesday to call for a stronger NATO military presence in the Baltic states in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
With a NATO summit in Madrid in late June due to decide whether troop numbers on the alliance's eastern flank should be further increased in view of the changed security situation in Europe, both Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and Latvian President Egils Levits urged the military alliance to deploy more troops to the region.
"The NATO summit in Madrid must be the summit of decisions," Nauseda said ahead of Scholz's one-day visit, adding that Lithuania was hoping to reach agreement with its allies at the summit on "switching from deterrence to forward defence, from battalion to brigade, from air policing to air defence."
Levits said he also hoped that Scholz's visit would bring "concrete proposals" for strengthening the defence of NATO'S eastern flank.
"We expect that Germany, too, has the overall security of NATO in mind and therefore also supports NATO's increased presence in all three Baltic states," Levits said.
Scholz is due to hold talks with Nauseda and the prime ministers of all three Baltic states during his visit to the Lithuanian capital, where the issue of securing NATO's eastern flank in light of the Russian war in Ukraine will be topping the agenda, according to the chancellor's office.
Afterwards, Scholz plans to visit Bundeswehr soldiers stationed at the Lithuanian military base in Rukla, where the Germany army leads a NATO battlegroup.
The multinational NATO unit there was reinforced with additional troops from Germany and Norway before the start of the war, bringing the total number of NATO soldiers stationed there from 1,200 to around 1,600.
"We are grateful for their contribution to the security of our country and the entire region. We are ready to welcome more troops by providing all necessary support and infrastructure," Nauseda said.
Lithuania borders on the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad as well as on Russia's ally Belarus, whose territory was used by Russian troops to launch their invasion of Ukraine.
Along with Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Norway, Lithuania is one of five NATO countries that share a land border with Russia. Finland could soon become the sixth.