NATO Build-up in Lithuania Sends 'Important Message' to Putin

The deployment is designed to beef up the defense of eastern Europe and send a signal of resolve to Russia, which has denounced the build-up as an act of aggression.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Igor Dodon at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, January 17, 2017.
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during a news conference after a meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Igor Dodon at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, January 17, 2017. Reuters

NATO's military deployment in Lithuania sends a powerful message that the military alliance is strong and united, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said during a ceremony on Tuesday to welcome a German battalion in the central town of Rukla.

"Never before has Lithuania hosted military forces of such size and integrity. It sends a very clear and important message to all that NATO stands strong and united," Grybauskaite said.

German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who attended the ceremony, said the deployment of tanks and other military equipment made it clear that Lithuania was not alone.

The deployment is designed to beef up the defense of eastern Europe and send a signal of resolve to Russia's President Vladimir Putin, which has denounced the build-up as an act of aggression.

The German army last month started sending about 200 vehicles, including 30 tanks, by train to Lithuania along with 450 troops.