'Vilnius Fortress': Patriot batteries and thousands of soldiers to protect leaders at NATO summit | International

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Batteries of Patriot air defense systems of the German Armed Forces, this Monday at the Vilnius airport.INTS KALNINS (REUTERS)

The annual NATO summit is held in geopolitical circumstances —the largest war conflagration in Europe since 1945— and in a very special geographical location —Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, a few tens of kilometers from Belarus and less than 200 from Russia. Accordingly, extraordinary are the security measures adopted to protect the meeting, which is expected to bring together some 40 heads of state and government (the 31 allies, plus other guests such as Sweden, Ukraine or several Asian democracies).

Upon landing this Monday at the Vilnius airport, the deployment was very evident. Batteries of German Armed Forces Patriot air defense systems can be seen alongside the runway, some pointed towards the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, others in the direction of Belarus/Russia. A flag made clear the ownership of these long-range military equipment.

But this is not the only special contribution of the allies to the security of the summit. Spain has provided medium-range Nasams air defense units; France, Caesar artillery pieces; various allies have provided fighter jets; London and Paris, defense against drones; Berlin and Warsaw, heliborne special task forces; the NATO joint force is operational (task force) against chemical, biological, nuclear risks; A total of 16 allies have sent a thousand soldiers who will join the 3,000 soldiers from the Baltic country activated for the occasion, according to the Lithuanian authorities.

Lithuania, of course, is resorting to the maximum of its possibilities. Among other things, it has tripled border control activities. In 2021, thousands of migrants from mainly the Middle East arrived at the border with Belarus, in an episode that the West considers to be a deliberate destabilization attempt perpetrated by Minsk. Belarus denies the allegations.

As in other big summits, the city center is full of security forces and with traffic cuts. Lithuanian authorities report that some 1,500 police officers are on duty for the appointment. But the military dimension of the protection efforts is exceptional, in keeping with the challenge that is so close, a Belarus willing to welcome Russian nuclear weapons and Wagner mercenaries, and a spiral of conflict that can have multiple derivatives, not only in a conventional sense. , but also hybrid.

The Lithuanian authorities – and those of the other Baltic countries, Latvia and Estonia – hope that this one-off reinforcement represents a new step on the path of large permanent deployments of the allies that reinforce their fragile defenses. In this sense, Germany declared in June its willingness to permanently transfer 4,000 soldiers to Lithuania, for which the necessary facilities are now being set up.

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Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, NATO has heavily strengthened so-called forward defenses on the eastern flank, although these are largely rotating deployments involving many allies.

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