German government deploys more combat troops to Lithuania against Russia

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Amid the United States’ war campaign against Russia, which poses the threat of World War III, Germany is increasing its contingent of combat troops in Eastern Europe. During a visit to the military in Munster on Monday, Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (Social Democrat, SPD) announced that parliament had been informed “that we are going to strengthen the battlegroup in Lithuania”.

The reinforcements include “350 soldiers who can be deployed in a few days, including 270 from the German army”. She got along in recent days with Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anušauskas and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD). “This strengthens our contribution to NATO’s eastern flank and sends a very clear signal of unity to our alliance partners. You can count on us,” she added.

During a joint public appearance with the heads of state of the three Baltic states, Scholz confirmed on Thursday evening that the number of German troops in Lithuania would be increased by 350. “We take the concerns of our allies very seriously. We are with you. It is very important to me,” he said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, center left, during a press conference February 10 with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, left, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas and Latvian Prime Minister Karins, right (Christophe Gateau/ Pool via AP)

The three Baltic heads of state and government welcomed Berlin’s decision. “It is crucial that we strengthen NATO’s eastern flank,” Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda said. “Our alliance must be able to react quickly and react decisively in the region.” The soldiers are “an additional reinforcement”.

The troops are currently on their way. “VET [enhanced Forward Presence] reinforcement forces have just been deployed,” the Ministry of Defense announced in a tweet.

According to an official ministry report, the troops consist “mainly of reconnaissance, artillery and nuclear, biological and chemical defense capabilities available in Germany”. It was “a moderate reinforcement with a sense of proportion to reassure the allies and should enable de-escalation”.

This claim is absurd. In fact, the massive build-up of NATO troops in Eastern Europe is increasingly taking the direct form of preparations for war against Russia. Many other NATO members have announced in recent days an increase in their troops in Eastern Europe, some of which have already been completed.

Several thousand American paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division are currently deployed in southeastern Poland, near the borders with Belarus and Ukraine. According to the Pentagon, they will be performing parachute jumps there in the coming days. Hundreds more American soldiers arrived in Romania on Wednesday after being transferred from a base in Germany.

Britain, which leads the NATO battlegroup in Estonia, has announced it will double its troops in Eastern Europe. Among other measures, 350 Royal Marines are to be transferred to Poland as an “immediate measure”. According to a report published in the Time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “ready to go further” and considered “deploying typhoons [fighter jets] and warships to South Eastern Europe. There are “plans to send fighter jets to Romania and Bulgaria and to send warships to the Black Sea,” the newspaper said.

NATO had already announced in January that France, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands would also send more fighter jets and warships to the Baltic Sea and Eastern Europe. Paris is also investigating the establishment of another NATO battle group in Romania.

The massive deployment of troops is accompanied by constant military exercises near the Russian border. On February 20, the “Dynamic Manta 22” anti-submarine exercise will begin in the Mediterranean Sea. On February 22, the “Dynamic Guard” exercise will begin in Norway. The two will merge in Cold Response 2022, Norway’s largest military exercise since the 1980s. 35,000 soldiers from 28 countries, including Germany, will take part in the exercise, which will officially run from March 14 to April 1. The British aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales and the American aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman are already on the way.

The offensive refutes the official propaganda claim that Russia is the aggressor. In fact, the NATO powers have systematically encircled Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union 30 years ago. In Ukraine, the United States and Germany, in close cooperation with fascist forces, orchestrated a coup in early 2014 to install a pro-Western right-wing regime in Kyiv. Since then, the imperialist powers have continued to escalate the conflict.

The already existing “Battlegroups” in the Baltic States and Poland were created in 2017 and are armed to the teeth.

German tanks arriving at the station in Sestokai, Lithuania, February 24, 2017, for the deployment of the German-led NATO battlegroup (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)

“The core of the battle group itself is made up of mechanized and infantry forces” which “can be reinforced by additional units such as special engineers or artillery”, according to a brochure issued by the Operations Command of the German army. “The battle group is equipped with a significant number of large vehicles, including several dozen tanks (battle tanks, armored recovery vehicles, bulldozers, bridge-laying tanks and armored personnel carriers)”, although the army “mainly uses battle tanks, armored personnel carriers and carriers.

On Wednesday, the new commander of German troops in Rukla, Lithuania, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Andrä, officially took command of the battle group. Bundeswehr Inspector General Eberhard Zorn and Army Inspector Alfons Mais were also present at the handover. Together with other German generals, including Jörg Vollmer, commander of the NATO Joint Force Command in Brunssum, and the Lithuanian Defense Minister, they celebrated the battlegroup’s fifth anniversary.

The aggressive behavior of the German military command in Eastern Europe and the formation of German combat troops against Russia have a dark and unpleasant history: 81 years ago the Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union and swept through Europe from the East in a war of annihilation that claimed at least 27 million lives.

Even today, the imperialist powers pursue the goal of subjugating the resource-rich country and reducing it to a semi-colonial status. In their military deployment in the East, the NATO powers rely not only on the fascist forces in Ukraine, but also in their own ranks.

Significantly, the prosecutor’s office in Lüneburg, Lower Saxony, on Wednesday opened investigations into German soldiers who were previously stationed in Lithuania. According to the prosecution, two soldiers are charged with incitement to hatred. They allegedly made racist and anti-Semitic comments and denied the Holocaust.

It is not an isolated problem. Extensive far-right networks exist in the German military, which are systematically protected and used by the ruling class to enforce the return of German militarism at home and abroad. In the summer of 2021, an entire tank grenadier platoon was returned to Germany from Lithuania after several soldiers carried out far-right and anti-Semitic activities.

In Rukla, the German-led Battle Group commands the Lithuanian “Iron Wolf” Brigade, which has a far-right history. Originally, the Iron Wolf (Geležinis vilkas) was a fascist fighting league founded in 1927 under dictator Antanas Smetona. During World War II, members of the Iron Wolf collaborated with the Nazis and participated in massacres of the Jewish population in Lithuania.

Nevertheless, the NATO war campaign is pushed in particular by the nominally “left” parties in the German parliament. While the Social Democratic Minister of Defense is sending additional troops to the East, Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is leading the propaganda offensive on the ground. As part of her inaugural visit to Ukraine earlier this week, she was pictured in a steel helmet and body armor surrounded by armed Ukrainian soldiers on Ukraine’s eastern front line to draw the attention of media.

The Left Party, which backed government propaganda during the 2014 coup in Ukraine, also fully agrees with the drive to war. The leader of the Left Party’s parliamentary group, Dietmar Bartsch, said on the Anne Will talk show that he “fully agrees with the federal government”, which is “trying everything in dialogue formats” and “defusing “. And of course, it’s “fair to put a lot of things on the table”. Like the federal government, he considers the arms deliveries to Kiev to be a mistake, because we can “really help Ukraine in a different way”.

In fact, the “dialogue formats” touted by Bartsch serve as little for de-escalation as for troop deployment. They are used to convey NATO’s demands for surrender to Russia, which are also supported by Die Linke. The United States responded “very strongly” to Russian demands, Bartsch said. He could hardly specify where he is. The “solid” US-NATO response is obviously to prepare for war.

The danger of war is enormous and Putin’s regime increases it with its own military maneuvers. He does not represent the interests of working people in Russia, but those of a corrupt oligarchy, which has enriched itself enormously since the Stalinist bureaucracy restored capitalism. The only way to avert the threat of World War III is to build an international anti-war movement, based on the working class and fighting for the overthrow of capitalism, and a socialist perspective.

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