Despite claims of defensive drills, Russian and Belarusian military exercises are practicing offensive operations, said Lithuania’s Chief of Defence Valdemaras Rupšys on Tuesday.
“The exercises are worrying, because contrary to [Belarus’] claims, they are orientated at [practicing] offensive actions,” Rupšys said after a meeting with the Lithuanian president and defence minister. However, there is no direct military threat to Lithuania, he added.
“It’s a fact they [Russia and Belarus] will have joint military exercises in the future as well, which is a cause for concern,” said Rupšys. “The scenarios are offensive, and therefore we need to look at the development of our own capabilities, at joint plans with allies, and be always ready for any scenario.”
Rupšys reiterated that NATO drills in Lithuania are pre-planned, defensive in nature, and “pose no threat to Belarus, nor to other neighbours”.
Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis said the country would not “give in to provocations”.
Meanwhile, the current Belarusian–Russian drills, which began on Monday, are pre-planned and do not pose a threat, said Karoblis.
According to the defence minister, when the protests began in Belarus, Russia staged pre-planned drills in the Kaliningrad exclave wedged between Lithuania and Poland. At the time, Moscow was displaying constructive cooperation and had informed NATO about the excercises, he said.
However, once Russian President Vladimir Putin had declared support for Lukashenko, the Kremlin returned to the rhetoric that NATO troops stationed in the Baltic states posed a threat, according to Karoblis.
“The increase of Russian military power in the Western Military District, […] the strengthening of forces in Kaliningrad” are aimed at creating an “offensive capability”, said the Lithuanain defence minister, which isn’t reflected by NATO.