A permanent deployment of Russian troops to Belarus would be a major challenge for Lithuania and NATO, but there are no signs of this happening yet, Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said on Wednesday.
“A permanent military presence of Russia, if such a decision were made, would be a big security challenge both for Lithuania and Poland, and for NATO as a whole […], but we don’t see any concrete preparations taking place now,” he told reporters.
If Alexander Lukashenko stays in power, it will be necessary to watch out for Belarus potentially further integrating with Russia, and “particularly, what will be the price that Lukashenko will pay to Russia”, he said.
The defence minister spoke to reporters after updating the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defence on the situation in Belarus.
Belarus, which has been in the midst of a political crisis following the August 9 presidential election, and Russia launched a joint tactical military exercise, Slavic Brotherhood 2020, last week.
The Russian Defence Ministry has said the drills will last until September 25 and will involve over 800 troops and some 170 pieces of equipment from both countries.
Karoblis said that no major increase in military activity has been observed, however.
“At the moment, we see no indications that [Russian forces] might stay [in Belarus] after this exercise. That would involve logistical solutions and other related issues,” he said.
Laurynas Kasčiūnas, the committee’s vice-chairman, said, that the exercise presented no military threats, even though there were “a lot of demonstrative aspects in military terms”.