German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht during a speech in Lithuania on December 19, 2021 PETRAS MALUKAS
Russia cannot “impose its views” on NATO on regional security, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Sunday as tension grows between Moscow and the West over Ukraine.
Ms Lambrecht was speaking during a visit to Lithuania – her first trip abroad – where she inspected military units present in this NATO member country. The deployment of tens of thousands of troops by Russia on its border with Ukraine worries Lithuania, like the other Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia.
“We must resolve this tense situation we are in now, both diplomatically and with credible deterrence,” she told reporters at the Rukla military base. “We need to talk to each other, which means discussing the proposals that Russia has put forward. This is fair and important.”
“But it is not possible that Russia imposes its views on NATO partners,” added the Social Democrat, Minister of Defense of the new coalition in power in Germany.
Ms Lambrecht met her Lithuanian counterpart Arvydas Anusauskas, who noted that “the forces mobilized by Russia in the Kaliningrad region are ten times greater than the battalion deployed in Rukla” by NATO.
– “Impossible” requests –
“In this situation, Russia’s demands which weaken the security of our countries are simply impossible to implement. I think they must be rejected,” Anusauskas told reporters.
About 550 German soldiers are deployed at the Rukla base in Lithuania, a country where Germany is at the head of the NATO international battalion.
Similar military units were sent to other Baltic states and Poland in 2017 to deter the Russians from possible aggression after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea three years earlier, which also helped the separatists capture from parts of eastern Ukraine.
After massing some 100,000 troops near Ukraine, Russia last week made proposals to contain the role of the United States and NATO in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, calling for emergency negotiations with Washington.
Moscow demands that the Atlantic Alliance not welcome new members and not establish bases in the former Soviet republics. The West threatened Russia with heavy sanctions if its soldiers entered Ukraine.
Before leaving for Lithuania, Lambrecht called for stronger sanctions against Russia. Those responsible for any aggression must suffer “personal consequences,” she told German weekly Bild am Sonntag, adding that Germany and its allies must “have Russian President Vladimir Putin in their sights” and his entourage.
“We must exhaust all possibilities of diplomatic and economic sanctions,” she also told Bild am Sonntag. “And every additional step must be taken in agreement with our allies.”
On Thursday, NATO and a European Union summit warned Moscow against “heavy consequences” in the event of military intervention after rejecting Russia’s will to veto Kiev’s possible membership of the Alliance .
The European summit extended for six months the economic sanctions imposed on Russia after the annexation of Crimea in 2014. On the new sanctions envisaged, no details were communicated.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda estimated after this summit that the regional security situation was “probably (….) the most dangerous for thirty years”.