MINSK, 8 July (BelTA) – The Baltic countries are building up military infrastructure, Andrei Chernobai, a military analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research (BISR) said in an interview with a BelTA correspondent.
The participants of the NATO summit held in late June decided to significantly increase NATO military presence in the Baltic countries. Under the Enhanced Forward Presence program, NATO will bolster the multinational battlegroups from battalions up to brigade size; there are plans to organize the storage of weapons, equipment and other supplies for NATO's military units that are part of the rapid reaction force on the Baltic soil.
“This will require significant budgetary spending from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, as well as the preparation of the appropriate infrastructure. Such work has been underway for several months already,” Andrei Chernobai said.
According to him, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has repeatedly stated that the country is ready to admit larger forces of the alliance and provide them with all the necessary infrastructure and assistance.
“Indeed, at the beginning of the year €40 million was allocated to set up three camps to accommodate about 2,400 NATO soldiers. In order to admit additional NATO forces, Vilnius is upgrading the Rudninkai military training ground in southeastern Lithuania. German companies Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann helped set up a maintenance and logistics center in Lithuania to service NATO vehicles. The center opened in Jonava on 29 June. German officers will arrive in the country in the near future to assess the existing military infrastructure and decide on the placement of parts of a brigade of the German armed forces. Lithuania is to spend hundreds of millions of euros for this purpose by 2027,” the analyst said.
The expert added that Latvia previously invested heavily in the construction and renovation of residential and training infrastructure at the Adazi military base where a NATO combat group is stationed. On 5 July, the country's Defense Minister Artis Pabriks announced the establishment of another international military base Zalve in the southern regions of Aizkraukle and Jekabpils, near the border with Lithuania.
"On 29 June, the defense ministries of Latvia and Canada signed a joint declaration, according to which Riga undertakes to provide infrastructure to support the deployment of the brigade of its overseas ally. In addition to residential quarters they will also have to build facilities for training and maintenance and for warehousing equipment, ammunition and material resources," said Andrei Chernobai.
According to him, Estonia is also preparing the infrastructure to host military units of the allies. The nearest plans include the modernization of the Amari air base. In July 2021, the country joined NATO's joint ammunition warehousing initiative and in March 2022 opened a "multinational" location for the units of the Enhanced Forward Presence program. The military analyst cited data: in several months of this year, Tallinn increased military spending by almost €1 billion, which exceeds the country's annual defense budget.
"In the near future, the list of military infrastructure facilities under construction in the Baltic states will increase significantly, as they are planning to step up not only NATO ground troops but also air, naval, and air defense troops. In turn, all new facilities will require maintenance that will cost annually tens, if not hundreds of millions of euros. In this regard, the governments of the Baltic countries will have to revise their defense budgets upwards more than once, which will become a heavy burden on ordinary taxpayers," the expert predicts.