VILNIUS (Sputnik) – German servicemen, which constitute the majority of the international NATO battalion deployed in Lithuania, will remain stationed in the country until the security environment improves, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday.
"I cannot say precisely right now for how long the German servicemen will remain in Lithuania. Until the situation objectively takes a turn for the better, we have to fulfill our commitments," Steinmeier said at a joint press conference with Lithuanian leader Dalia Grybauskaite.
Since the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014, NATO has been boosting its military presence in Europe, particularly in Eastern European states, citing Russia's alleged interference in the conflict as justification for the move. The alliance's decision to deploy four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland was announced by its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, after the NATO summit in July 2016.
Lithuania's NATO contingent is led by Germany. Between 2017 and 2018, over 1,200 of the defense bloc's servicemen are expected to be deployed in the country. At present, 450 German troops serve within the NATO battalion in Lithuania.