Lithuania’s president wants his country to hike military spending to 3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to enable it to host more NATO troops as the Baltic nations are hoping for a significant increase in the alliance’s presence in the region.
An increase in NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states is expected to be announced at a summit in Madrid next week. But the alliance is divided over how big a military buildup it will be.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda told Reuters this week that he hopes Lithuania can host a brigade by 2027. “Infrastructure-wise, we are not ready to deploy a brigade-sized unit in Lithuania because there is no accommodation infrastructure here. I hope that by 2027 we will be ready,” he said.
“We are talking about hundreds of millions of euros for that purpose. And this is also a serious amount of money which allows me to talk about the necessity of achieving 3% of defense spending in the coming years,” Nauseda added.
A brigade-sized force is typically around 5,000 troops. Before February, Lithuania hosted about 1,700 NATO troops, which have been reinforced a bit since Russia invaded Ukraine. Latvia and Estonia also host a similar number of NATO troops.
According to a report from The Washington Post, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have put forward a plan that would increase the NATO troop contingent in each country to about 6,000. They also want a force of about 20,000 troops on stand-by that could be rapidly deployed to the region with military equipment for the force pre-positioned in the Baltics.
But other European countries are not expected to go for such a large military buildup in the Baltics as they want to focus on other areas, including the Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and the Sahel.
Nauseda’s comments came as tensions are soaring between Lithuania and Russia over Vilnius’ decision to enforce EU sanctions on goods traveling through its territory by rail to Kaliningrad. Nauseda has said he is confident that Lithuania, a country with a population of about 2.8 million, won’t face a military response from Russia for the embargo because it is a NATO member.