Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Andrius Sytas / Reuters – 2017-07-11 22:01:10
US Deploys Advanced Anti-Aircraft Missiles in Baltics for First Time
Lithuania Praises Move as Proof of US ‘Commitment’
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(July 10, 2017) – — Lithuania’s Defense Ministry has made a surprise announcement today that the United States has deployed an unspecified number of Patriot missile batteries into Lithuania, nominally for a military drill that is ongoing for the next two weeks.
This marks the first time such advanced US anti-aircraft weapons have been deployed into one of the Baltic states, and the deployment is expected to last beyond the current exercise, with Lithuanian officials saying it proves the US military commitment to them.
Lithuanian officials have the impression the missiles would be there at least through Russia’s own military exercises in the region in September, which are expected to be held near the NATO border regions, and which Lithuanian officials have been hyping as a “threat.”
The move comes just days after neighboring Poland reached a deal to buy $7.6 billion worth of Patriot missiles as well. Lithuanian officials say that air defense is a major hole for them in their current military buildup, and that the US deployment helps solve that.
The US and other western NATO powers have been positioning large numbers of troops throughout the Baltics as a “spearhead” force against Russia. The Baltic states, only too eager to host this force, have been hyping the “imminent” threat posed by Russia for the last several years, and making false predictions of an imminent Russian invasion of Eastern Europe.
US Deploys Advanced Anti-aircraft
Missiles in Baltics for First Time
Andrius Sytas / Reuters
VILNIUS (July 10, 2017) – — The United States deployed a battery of Patriot long-range anti-aircraft missiles in Lithuania to be used in NATO wargames from Tuesday — the first time the advanced defense system has been brought to the Baltics where Russia has air superiority.
The Patriot battery was brought to the Siauliai military airbase on Monday, ahead of the Tobruk Legacy exercise, and will be withdrawn when the exercise ends on July 22, a Lithuanian defense ministry spokeswoman told Reuters.
The NATO wargames take place ahead of the large-scale Zapad 2017 exercise by Russia and Belarus which NATO officials believe could bring more than 100,000 troops to the borders of Poland and the three Baltic NATO allies — the biggest such Russian maneuvers since 2013.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia possess only short-range anti-aircraft missiles, leaving the skies largely unprotected in the event of hostilities and have expressed concern about their air defense weakness following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
As a deterrent to Russia in the flashpoint region, the United States has deployed detachments of troops since the Crimea annexation, which have been augmented by four NATO battle groups of more than 1,000 soldiers.
Referring to the NATO exercise starting on Tuesday, Lithuania’s Defence Minister Raimondas Karoblis said: “The deployment of Patriots is important because it demonstrates that such moves are no longer a taboo in the region.”
“It proves that the missiles can be brought to wherever they are needed, which is very important,” he told Reuters.
“Air defense, including ground-based defenses, is one of the holes in our defenses, and we will not solve it without help from our allies,” he said.
The Patriot batteries were used in 200 combat engagements against manned and unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles and tactical ballistic missiles, according to its maker US firm Raytheon.
NATO ally Poland said last week that the United States had agreed to sell it Patriot missile defense systems. In March it said it expected to sign a deal worth up to $7.6 billion with Raytheon to buy eight Patriot systems by the end of the year.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.