Belgian land and air contingents to strengthen NATO eastern flank

Early September, the Belgian army will send two contingents – one of the ground forces and one of the air force – to Lithuania for four months as part of NATO's reinforcement of its military presence in Eastern Europe. The aim is to dissuade Russia from any hint of aggression.

Belgian land and air contingents to strengthen NATO eastern flank 2
Piranha IIIC DF90 of the Belgian army (Picture source: Army Recognition)

A reinforced company of the Ground component has begun to deploy to join the Rukla military camp (central Lithuania) where it will join in early September in a multinational battalion commanded by Germany. The equipment - including Piranha III 8x8 armored vehicles - has already departed by boat and the staff must be complete by 3 September, the Belga news agency reports.

A reconnaissance platoon from Luxembourg will join the Belgian detachment of about 230 soldiers, mainly supplied by the 1st/3rd battalion of Lancers, stationed at Marche-en-Famenne, but with reinforcements from other units (medical, logistic, transmissions and engineering ...). In October, a specialist intelligence instructor will also provide one-month training to the Lithuanian special forces.

Belgium has been participating since 2017 in strengthening the Eastern flank of the Atlantic Alliance against a Russia considered more "aggressive", which results in the rotational deployment of four multinational battalions in the three Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania). as well as in Poland, under the name of "enhanced Forward Presence" (eFP).

The Air component has begun the deployment of four F-16 fighter-bombers and about 50 people at the air base in Siauliai (northern Lithuania) as part of NATO's air policing mission. called BAP ("Baltic Air Policing"). The planes are already on site and will be operational on Saturday, September 1, according to another spokesman. This is the eighth Belgian participation in the BAP mission or its reinforced component in 2014 following the annexation of the Ukrainian Peninsula of Crimea by Moscow, the "Enhanced Air Policing Mission" (EAPM). Belgium, in March 2004, was the first allied country to carry out the BAP mission, which began just as seven new members, including the three Baltics, joined NATO in a ceremony at the White House in Washington. Since then, seventeen Allied avenues have succeeded each other to protect the airspace of the Baltic States, which have no combat aircraft.