A new battalion of US military forces, equipped with tanks and other armored vehicles, is to be deployed to Lithuania in November and will remain there until next June, the country’s defense minister says.
Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis made the announcement on Tuesday, though he said the deployment was “not connected at all to the situation in Belarus.”
He said the new battalion would replace an American troop contingent that was stationed in the country near Belarus’ border earlier this month for a two-month tour.
NATO activity has picked up near the borders of Belarus, where there has been unrest after the re-election in August of President Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko has said Western countries seek to destabilize Belarus and has put the country’s military on high alert and shut its borders with Poland and Lithuania.
The US battalion currently deployed in Lithuania arrived earlier and is staying longer than the government had indicated before the outbreak of protests in neighboring Belarus.Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin warned in a recent televised interview that an American armor battalion had redeployed its tanks to a location in Lithuania close to the Belarusian border.
Lukashenko also accused the US of organizing the post-election protests in Belarus through social media platforms.
He said Americans, acting through centers in Poland and the Czech Republic, were controlling the social media platforms that are playing a leading role in the unrest.Earlier this month, the Lithuanian Defense Ministry issued a statement saying that the US would deploy 500 troops to the country to engage in war games near the border with Belarus.