This week the Ministry of National Defence of Lithuania held the public presentation for interested business representatives concerning procurement documents related to the Public-Private Partnership projects for building three new military facilities in Šiauliai town, and regions of Šilalė and Vilnius.
“It is a unique moment because we never undertook such work before. This is the largest project not only in Lithuania but also in the Baltic states and we want to implement it successfully and have a new capability in the Lithuanian Armed Forces by 2023,” Vice Minister of National Defence G. Jeglinskas said.
According to official representatives of Lithuania, the new military infrastructure is created as a main activity aimed at developing the Lithuanian Armed Forces. The goal is to increase Lithuania’s combat capabilities.
Unfortunately officials of the Baltic states are silent on the fact that the new military infrastructure is developed for permanent deployment of US troops.
It should be recalled that earlier officials of the Baltic states have called for US troops to be stationed permanently in their countries. And this despite the fact that the wording of the joint declaration concerning periodic deployment suggests that major changes are unlikely in the nearest future.
However, the US should pre-deploy more equipment in the three Baltic countries. This is the fact!
The US Army has been working to update its pre-positioned stocks throughout Europe. These stocks, which store equipment near areas of potential conflict, give the US Army the ability to rapidly equip forces and “provide support until air and sea lines of communication can be established.”
To enhance greater access to these supplies, the US should also help funding and expediting Baltic infrastructure improvements. Neither railways, bridges, nor roads have been built or refurbished in more than a quarter-century to efficiently transport large US or NATO military equipment.
The US should pre-deploy a greater supply of tanks, artillery, ammunition, and other heavy equipment.
Besides, in an effort to improve their air defence, the Baltic states have invited the US to deploy Patriot air defence systems here, and would also like to be included in a joint air defence shield.
The current NATO force structure in Eastern Europe would be unable to withstand a Russian invasion into neighbouring Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Today Moscow is accused of carrying evil plans, that is why a robust military infrastructure is emerging in the immediate proximity of Russia’s borders. In a particular case the US footprint is huge.
Thus, the US Defence Department’s 2019 fiscal budget became law on Aug. 13. It allocates $6.5 billion for the European Defence Initiative (EDI), $2 billion more than the previous fiscal budget, and nearly double the $3.4 billion the military received in fiscal 2017. The increase is evidence of the focus on building up a robust military force to threaten Russia. Infrastructure improvements in the Baltic states and Poland are a high priority.
According to the Lithuanian Defence Ministry, the updates to the Lithuanian Armed Forces’ Kazlų Rūda training ground, in the district of Marijampolė, to get it up to NATO standards, are almost complete. The facility will be used to train air crews and controllers. This is a joint project with the United States, funded through the European Reassurance Initiative. American B-52 strategic bombers have already dropped dummy munitions there. The firing range was part of the NATO Saber Strike exercise that was held in June. US National Guard soldiers are there to prepare Kazlų Rūda for another exercise.
In July, the Lithuanian Defence Ministry signed a contract with the NATO Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) in regard to infrastructure development projects that will significantly improve the training conditions. Thirteen facilities are to be completed for the Lithuanian Armed Forces by 2021. According to Vice Minister of National Defence Giedrimas Jeglinskas, the scale of the NATO deployments necessitates a larger military infrastructure to accommodate those forces. Once the upgrade is completed, Kazlų Rūda will be the only military facility in the country able to host and provide logistics for a brigade-size force including hardware.
The modernization program also applies to the Gen. Silvestras Žukauskas training ground — a joint project funded through Lithuania’s military budget, the NATO Security Investment Program, and the US European Reassurance Initiative. The NATO Security Investment Program (NSIP) is also financing the construction of facilities to accommodate the NATO Air Policing Mission, Host Nation Support, military training grounds, and, in part, the NATO Force Integration Unit.
It should be remembered that the Baltic states signed Status of Forces Agreements (SOFAs), allowing the presence of American forces within their borders as far back as early 2017. SOFAs and the creation of military infrastructure for the needs of the United States in Lithuania violates Article 137 of the country’s Constitution “There may not be any weapons of mass destruction and foreign military bases on the territory of the Republic of Lithuania.”