09:00 GMT06 March 2021
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    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)
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    NATO has continued to make its presence felt in eastern Europe, with close to 1,000 soldiers taking part in the alliance's month-long 'Baltic Piranha' military training program in Lithuania, designed as an "assurance measure" to combat the perceived threat of Russia.

    As part of the war games, 500 Lithuanian troops, along with Belgian, American and Luxembourgian forces will test out military hardware as part of the NATO Rapid Reaction Force.

    Around 280 Belgian soldiers and 45 members from Luxembourg's armed forces will take part in the operation, along with 200 US troops that are currently stationed in Lithuania for NATO's rotation in eastern European and Baltic states.

    The Baltic Piranha training is part of a series of "assurance measures" agreed upon by member states during last year's NATO summit in Wales to counter the perceived Russian threat to security in eastern Europe.

    Following Russia's reunification with Crimea, NATO officials have accused Russia of militarily intervening in the conflict in Ukraine, with the alliance subsequently bolstering its military presence in the eastern European and Baltic states of Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

    Russia on the other hand has consistently denied all accusations that it has been involved in the Ukraine conflict, and has instead criticized NATO for the escalation of tensions in Europe, arguing that the build-up of military activity close to Russia's borders has had a destabilizing effect on relations across the continent.

    The increase in military operations and close encounters between Russia and NATO states since early 2014 was documented in the report 'Dangerous Brinkmanship' by London-based think tank, the European Leadership Network, which found that incidents between the two had jumped to Cold War levels.

    The NATO Baltic Piranha program is set to run until October 28. 

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    NATO Seeks Expansion to Eastern Europe (362)

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    Tags:
    NATO, NATO buildup, escalation, new Cold War, military buildup, NATO expansion, military drills, military, military exercises, Ukrainian crisis, Baltic Region, Europe, Russia, Lithuania
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