Rukla, Lithuania - On February 7 General Salvatore Farina welcomed the first troops of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group upon their deployment in Lithuania in a ceremony hosted by the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaitė. eFP contingents from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands already in the area lined up for a formal welcome ceremony at the Lithuanian Training Regiment 'Radvila' in Rukla, joined on the occasion by the U.S. and Czech rotational troops deployed for training purposes and by soldiers from different units of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
The German-led multinational battlegroup is the first of the four that comprise NATO's forward presence in the area to 'demonstrate the Alliance's readiness and resolve to deter and defend' - said General Farina - 'representing not just four battlegroups, but the whole of NATO in a unity of effort'.
Contingents from Norway and Luxembourg - as well as Croatia and France in 2018 - will join the battlegroup in Rukla over the next months, lifting the total amount of troops to about 1,200; the size and composition of each battlegroup, however, will differ from country to country.
The other three multinational battlegroups will be deployed to Latvia, Estonia and Poland by the summer of this year in order to enhance allied presence in the eastern part of the Alliance, as agreed by NATO Heads of State and Governments at the Summit in Warsaw last year in order to respond in a proportionate and measured way to the changed security environment.
In his speech Commander JFC Brunssum, General Farina, underlined how the establishment of the first of these battlegroups marks the 'strengthening of the Alliance's military capacity' and demonstrates 'NATO's commitment and resolve to defend the people of its member nations against any possible aggression' while 'avoiding provocation and preventing escalation'. This is also 'part of NATO's larger effort to adapt to the challenges we face', the General noted, by adopting 'a 360-degrees approach to security' supported by the integration of all domains: 'land, air, maritime and special operations forces must all meld together in support of NATO efforts'.
Also taking part in the ceremony, along with the Lithuanian President and Commander JFC Brunssum: the German and Lithuanian Defence Ministers, Ms. Ursula von der Leyen and Mr. Raimundas Karoblis, the Chief of Defence of Lithuania, Lieutenant General Jonas Vytautas Žukas, as well as ambassadors and defence attachés.
The Lithuanian President, Ms. Grybauskaitė, emphasized in her speech how this battlegroup represents 'the strongest security shield in our region arriving 'at the right time and place', and assured that 'Lithuania will provide high standard Host Nation support'.
The Minister of Defense of Germany, Ms von der Leyen, in her remarks underlined that 'today we have come together as NATO partners to reassure our strong commitment to the future of Lithuania', which is now 'protected by the greatest military alliance of our times'.
Story by JFC Brunssum Public Affairs Office