“Although it is important to strengthen the Suwalki Corridor, as the war in Ukraine shows, expanding static defense lines will not work.”

The President of Lithuania Nauseda Gypsiesmet yesterday with the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawieckiin Suwalki to address this Security situation at the border and the threat of the use of group mercenaries Wagner in Belarus. Both shared worrying information about the fighters stationed a few kilometers from the Lithuanian border. Morawiecki decided to “strengthen” the military border presence with Lithuania. With that in mind, Nauseda emphasized that “we must be vigilant and prepared for all scenarios.”

“The number of Wagner fighters stationed in Belarus is already around 4,000,” said the Lithuanian head of state. Some of the mercenaries “moved closer to our border and took up position in the Grodno area. This situation lends itself very well to provocation. Therefore, the Polish “Prime Minister” advocated “Strengthening the line of defense and border protection, and increasing the number of border guards and police».

Both countries have been on the alert since Wagner’s militiamen left Ukraine at the end of June and settled in Belarus after an unprecedented mutiny against the Kremlin. In light of the arrival of these mercenaries and the deployment of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, we asked the director of the Baltic Security Foundation: Otto Tabuns to strengthen Lithuania and neighboring countries. For the expert, “air defense should be a key aspect for better defense of the Suwalki Corridor.”

Has Lithuania increased its security since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine?

Lithuania has increased its security in various ways since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Conscription was reinstated in 2015 to bolster the army, road and rail links between north and south have been upgraded to facilitate military mobility, the border with Russia’s ally Belarus has been upgraded to have video surveillance the entire route. and national defense spending was increased to 2.52% of GDP in 2023. This was complemented by the inclusion of NATO forces with an increased forward presence.

Some analysts see the Suwalki Gap as one of NATO’s greatest weaknesses. Should they be strengthened (in Poland and in Lithuania)?

Should the Suwalki breach be fought by conventional military means or through sabotage, this could also become a problem for reinforcements from Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The Baltic region offers alternatives by strengthening sea and air routes, but it is to be expected that Russia will try to deny sea and air access, using its armed forces stationed near St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad as well as deploys the forces (most important: submarines) currently stationed at sea. . Although it is important to strengthen the Suwalki Corridor, as the war in Ukraine shows, expanding static defense lines will not work. Since Poland and Lithuania have a strong ground force component, air defense should be a key aspect of better defending the Suwalki Corridor to provide cover for the aforementioned ground forces and prevent Russia from surprisingly gaining air superiority.

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Russia has militarized Kaliningrad in recent years, and even has nuclear weapons stationed there. Is it a way to blackmail Lithuania (as well as NATO and the EU)?

It is certainly an important means of putting pressure on Lithuania, the Baltic States, NATO and the EU. On the one hand, there are military nuclear capabilities. On the other hand, the construction of civilian nuclear power plants that exceed the energy requirements of Kaliningrad. The latter can be used as a map to raise concerns about the potential environmental impact of a conventional war in the region and urge regional neighbors to negotiate with Russia and accommodate its wishes. This is identical to the Russian policy of terror surrounding Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

Is the fact that Belarus hosts Wagner’s mercenaries and Putin’s nuclear weapons a direct threat to Lithuania?

Wagner’s mercenaries can only become a problem if Putin or Lukashenko cannot control them. After the attempted coup, it is to be hoped that important Wagner personalities will be under strict surveillance so that recent events do not repeat themselves. Russian nuclear weapons pose no greater threat than they did when they were on Russian soil or loaded onto Russian submarines at sea. In both cases, it is more a psychological than a tactical action, because NATO is stronger than Russia and has three nuclear powers in its ranks, so Russia cannot repeat the Ukrainian strategy and has to look for other asymmetric ways to achieve unity and to challenge the confidence of allies in the transatlantic nations.

With Russia so close… Shouldn’t the voices of neighboring countries be heard more in the international community?

The neighboring Euro-Atlantic countries were listened to relatively well. NATO has provided collective defense (including Spanish troops in the Baltics), the EU has responded to Russian aggression with extensive sanctions and finally, despite Russian opinions, the United Nations Organization has also been able to express the concerns of many countries around the world based in the Security Council. It was heartening for Central and Eastern European countries to hear from Western European leaders that the concerns expressed were valid and should have been heard earlier. At the same time, this understanding must be continued and expanded. The citizens of the Baltic countries are not naive and understand that there are a number of priorities for countries like Spain, including in the strategic direction south. It is to be hoped, however, that we will all keep our eyes open to the eastern strategic direction, because a Euro-Atlantic failure on the eastern flank would pose fundamental and existential problems for all. And it would be a shame to lose our interests and values ​​to a weaker opponent who may have more insidiously divided us.

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