NATO states should consider stationing troops near Russia’s border on a permanent basis rather than rotating them, according to Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda. Speaking ahead of a summit of the US-led military alliance, Nauseda argued that NATO should focus less on Russia’s nuclear capability and more on the deployment of troops near its borders. He called for the NATO-Russia Founding Act, a treaty signed in 1997 that prohibits the deployment of permanent military contingents near Russian territory, to be declared dead.
Nauseda’s comments come amid growing concerns about Russia’s nuclear weapons strategy. Earlier this year, Russia announced that it had stationed nuclear weapons in Belarus, a move that has been met with criticism from Western officials who accuse Russia of nuclear blackmail. However, Moscow maintains that the deployment was done at the request of Belarus, in response to increased NATO presence in the region.
The Lithuanian president argued that the NATO-Russia Founding Act is outdated and hinders strategic decision-making within the alliance. He called for a shift away from the rotational deployment of troops and for NATO members to be able to station troops on each other’s soil as they see fit. Lithuania itself is seeking to host 4,000 German troops on a permanent basis.
Nauseda’s call for a reevaluation of NATO’s approach to Russia is not without controversy. The deployment of permanent troops near Russia’s border would be seen by Moscow as a direct provocation and could further escalate tensions between NATO and Russia. However, Nauseda believes that the current approach keeps NATO in a state of strategic ambivalence and fails to address the evolving security threats posed by Russia.
In recent years, Russia has expressed growing concerns about NATO’s expansion in Europe, seeing it as a major threat to its national security. Moscow argues that NATO’s expansion violates earlier promises made to Russia in the 1980s and 1990s. Russia has accused the US and its allies of launching a proxy war against it, with Ukraine serving as one of the tools in this alleged conflict.
Before the open hostilities broke out in Ukraine, Russia attempted to negotiate concessions from NATO in an effort to defuse the crisis. However, its proposals were rejected by the military alliance. The conflict in Ukraine has since fueled tensions between NATO and Russia, with both sides engaging in military buildup and flexing their military capabilities.
Lithuania, as a NATO member, has been advocating for Ukraine to be offered a path to rapid accession during the summit in Vilnius. Nauseda believes that this move would not only strengthen Ukraine but also bolster their fighting spirit. However, this proposal is expected to face resistance from Russia, which sees NATO’s expansion into Ukraine as a direct threat to its sphere of influence.
Overall, President Nauseda’s comments highlight the complex dynamics and challenges facing NATO in its relationship with Russia. The question of how to balance deterrence and dialogue remains a central concern for the alliance, and the upcoming summit in Vilnius will be crucial in shaping NATO’s approach moving forward.