Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian presidents urge NATO to bolster eastern flank amid situation in Belarus

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have called on the NATO alliance to strengthen its defences against “threats emanating from Belarus,” such as  the deployment of Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons there, and the possible relocation of the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries to Belarus.

Polish President Andrzej Duda (centre), Lithuanias Gitanas Nausda (right ) and Latvias Egils Levits (left).

Polish President Andrzej Duda (centre), Lithuania’s Gitanas Nausėda (right ) and Latvia’s Egils Levits (left). Twitter/Office of the President of Poland

Poland’s Andrzej Duda, Lithuania’s Gitanas Nausėda and Latvia’s Egils Levits made the appeal in a special joint letter, issued on Friday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The document was addressed to NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and the alliance’s heads of state and government, according to officials.

It comes days before NATO’s annual summit, which will be held in Vilnius, Lithuania this year, starting on July 11, the PAP news agency reported.

The three presidents wrote that cooperation between Russia and Belarus “has deteriorated the security of our region and that of the entire Euro–Atlantic area.” 

They noted that “Belarusian territory and its resources have been used by Russia in its illegal and brutal war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Russia’s deployment of nuclear warheads to Belarus 

Duda, Nausėda and Levits stated that the “ever closer military integration” between Russia and Belarus has led recently to the “deployment of tactical nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.”

The three presidents warned: “It presents an escalatory move in the context of the war in Ukraine and a direct threat to the security of our community. This is yet another flagrant violation of the [1997] NATO–Russia Founding Act and a living proof that this document is no longer in force.”

In June, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russian tactical nuclear warheads would be deployed in Belarus by July 7-8, the PAP news agency reported.

Possible movement of Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries to Belarus

Duda, Nausėda and Levits also warned about the possible relocation of rogue warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries to Belarus.

On June 24, Prigozhin led Wagner’s failed revolt against Russia’s military command, after which he was allowed to move to Belarus, under a deal with the Kremlin brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, according to news outlets.

Putin also offered Wagner troops the possibility of relocating to Belarus, the Reuters news agency reported at the time.

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia wrote on Friday that the presence of Prigozhin and his Wagner fighters in Belarus would create “risks for political stability in Belarus and in consequence a potential loss of control over conventional and nuclear weapons in Belarus.”

It also risks “further fuelling the migrant crisis” on Belarus’ frontier  with the EU, the Belarusian regime’s  already two-year “hybrid operation designed to provoke a humanitarian crisis on the borders of Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia,” the letter said.

Looking ahead to the Vilnius summit, Duda, Nausėda and Levits urged NATO to show “solidarity and unity” to counter all threats, including “those brought about by recent developments in Belarus.”

They added: “We must show Russia that we see and understand them and that we are ready to use all possible means to counter them.”

Presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia urge NATO to bolster eastern flank, raise defence spending  

The presidents of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia proposed five measures: “a review of nuclear deterrence and its adaptation to new realities; the inclusion in the military adaptation of conventional threats emanating from Belarus; the filling of army prepositioned stocks on the Eastern Flank; raising defence spending beyond 2 percent of GDP and aligning it with NATO priorities; and increasing Allied resilience against hybrid threats.

Duda, Nausėda and Levits stated: “The actions that we propose will not only improve Allied security, but will also correspond with the democratic aspirations of the Belarusian nation.“ 

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.

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Source: PAPprezydent.pllrp.lt  

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