Eighty Belgian soldiers depart for NATO mission in Lithuania

Eighty Belgian soldiers depart for NATO mission in Lithuania
Defence Minister Ludovine Dedonder. Credit: Belga

Eighty Belgian soldiers will leave Belgium's military airport in Melsbroek on Wednesday. and fly to Lithuania, where they will be part of NATO's enhanced presence along its eastern border.

"Belgium as a reliable partner in NATO has already sent a military detachment to Lithuania. We are participating in the Enhanced Forward Presence mission of NATO to reinforce the Alliance and the eastern flank. Thank you to our soldiers! #WeAreNATO," tweeted Belgium's Defence Minister Ludovine Dedonder on Wednesday.

The soldiers mostly come from the army's Ardennes Chasseurs Battalion as well as the 29th Logistics Battalion and the 4 CIS group, focusing on communications, according to reporting from RTBF.

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Next week, a Belgian detachment will start training in the German-led Combat Battalion on 17 August. In total, 150 Belgian soldiers will be deployed for this mission in Lithuania. The move forms the sixth Belgian division for this mission.

Enhanced NATO presence in the east

NATO's 'Enhanced Forward presence' was launched after a NATO summit in Warsaw in 2016 in order to deploy four multinational combat battalions in the Baltics (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) as well as Poland.

Increased presence in the region was intended strengthen the eastern flank of NATO after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, NATO decided to add four additional combat battalions to the region. Further to this, NATO announced at its Madrid summit in June that it will boost its forces nearly eightfold from 40,000 to 300,000 troops.

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