Germany will send an additional 500 troops to Lithuania as part of a NATO push to strengthen its eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the plan.
Baltic nations Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia have made urgent requests for more troops to counter a potential Russian attack. The German move sets the stage for a wider decision by North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders at a summit in Madrid at the end of this month to expand the alliance’s military presence in eastern Europe.
Germany currently commands the NATO contingent in Lithuania and Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to send a further 500 soldiers would increase Germany’s overall troop presence to around 1,500 on the ground, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information. There were about 500 German soldiers in Lithuania before Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February.
Germany wants to provide an additional 1,500 soldiers to the NATO mission, which would raise its overall contribution to around 3,000, the officials said. Due to logistical bottlenecks on the ground — such as a lack of accommodation in Lithuania — the government plans to keep the extra 1,500 troops as a rotating back-up unit on alert in Germany, the people said.
A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment.
During a visit to Vilnius on Tuesday, Scholz promised his three Baltic counterparts that his government is ready to deploy more troops to the region, without specifying how many. Scholz also vowed that Germany and its allies will defend “every centimeter of NATO territory” in the case of an attack. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia became NATO members in 2004.
The decision to send a further 500 soldiers to Lithuania could be announced as early as Thursday when Scholz hosts NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for talks in Berlin. Stoltenberg will also meet German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht.