Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda called on the United States to pay more attention to his nation’s security on as Lithuania faces increased migration from Belarus which it claims is created artificially by Minsk.
“We want larger attention because we see not only events in Afghanistan but also the wider political picture, and it is not getting better in our region,” Nauseda told reporters as he inaugurated a new camp for U.S. soldiers based in Pabrade.
The camp, named Herkus, was built for 7 million euros (over 8 million dollars) and is fit to house a battalion of 500 soldiers according to Lithuania’s Defence Ministry.
Nauseda said that Lithuania and neighbouring NATO allies Poland and Latvia face “a hybrid aggression” in form of migration, which “challenges resources” and “destabilises political situation.”
Just over 4,000 people crossed illegally into Lithuania this year, according to the official numbers, compared to 81 in the whole of 2020.
Most of them crossed the border in July, but the flow has almost stopped since Aug. 10 when Lithuania started to turn migrants away. Over 2,000 were denied entry since then.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said that the potential permanent presence of the U.S. troops in Pabrade would stabilise the security situation in the Baltics and work as a deterrent.
The United States first began rotational deployment in the country, once ruled from Moscow but now a member of both NATO and the EU, in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea.
Since October 2019, the United States upgraded the rotations to armed battalions with tanks, but Lithuania hopes the rotational presence will eventually become a permanent base.
U.S. ambassador to Lithuania Robert Gilchrist said his country has a “strong commitment” towards the Baltic country as it invested “hundreds of millions” of dollars into its military capability.