Germany is ready to strengthen its military presence on Nato’s eastern flank to guard against an attack by Russia, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said.
Mr Scholz said a German-led battalion in Lithuania could be developed into a “robust fighting brigade” to deter and defend against any invasion.
On a trip to Vilnius, he heard appeals from the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to reinforce Nato’s defences in the “very sensitive security situation” faced by the three Baltic states.
Estonia and Latvia border the Russian mainland, the only Nato countries other than Norway to do so, while Lithuania is sandwiched between Kremlin ally Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
All three ex-Soviet countries have announced increases in defence spending since Russia invaded Ukraine but are asking their western allies to provide more military muscle. Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has spoken of resetting the bloc’s defence posture.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said the country was ready to host more German forces that would “serve as a guarantee for the security of the whole alliance”.
He called on Nato leaders meeting in Madrid this month to agree “a shift from deterrence to forward defence, from battalion to brigade, from air policing to air defence”.
Mr Scholz visited some of the German soldiers stationed in Lithuania as part of what is known as Nato’s Enhanced Forward Presence. The battalion of 1,000 includes troops from Denmark, Belgium and other countries.
Baltic nations Sweden and Finland last month submitted applications to join Nato, coming after Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered the invasion of Ukraine and signalling an end to decades of military neutrality.
“Putin has achieved quite an unexpected result: an unprovoked war against Ukraine has resulted in Europe and the alliance coming together,” said Mr Karins.
The Baltic leaders, all vocal supporters of Ukraine, praised Mr Scholz for bringing in a special €100 billion ($107bn) budget to upgrade Germany’s military after years of underinvestment.
But Germany has baulked at some of the demands of Baltic states, including an embargo on Russian gas and a swift approval for Ukraine’s application to join the European Union.