Wednesday 29 June 2022 12:24 PM NATO Madrid: Baltic nations demand a new garrison of 50,000 troops trends now

Wednesday 29 June 2022 12:24 PM NATO Madrid: Baltic nations demand a new garrison of 50,000 troops trends now
Wednesday 29 June 2022 12:24 PM NATO Madrid: Baltic nations demand a new garrison of 50,000 troops trends now

Wednesday 29 June 2022 12:24 PM NATO Madrid: Baltic nations demand a new garrison of 50,000 troops trends now

Baltic leaders will lobby NATO for tens of thousands of extra troops to defend Europe's eastern flank at a key summit in Spain today, fearing they are next on Russian President Vladimir Putin's hit-list, after Ukraine.

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania want 50,000 troops to be permanently stationed across their countries to face down a full-scale Russian invasion, replacing a 4,000-strong 'tripwire' force that's currently in place.

It comes amid fears that Putin could order his commanders to seize a 'land corridor' between Russia's European enclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus along the flashpoint Suwalki Gap, cutting off the Baltics from easy reinforcement.

Britain, which already has 1,650 troops stationed in Estonia, would be expected to contribute to such a force, which would come on top of the 300,000 troops that NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said would be placed on 'high alert' earlier this week.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to use his appearance at the NATO summit in Madrid to pledge extra troops for Estonia, potentially more than doubling current numbers.

Baltic leaders will use today's NATO summit to lobby for 50,000 troops to be stationed on their territory amid fears Putin could cut them off with lighting assault on Sulwaki Gap

Baltic leaders will use today's NATO summit to lobby for 50,000 troops to be stationed on their territory amid fears Putin could cut them off with lighting assault on Sulwaki Gap

NATO leaders are meeting at a crucial time for the alliance, which is scrambling to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Though Ukraine is not part of the alliance, it's surrounded by members and many NATO countries have been supplying weapons to hold back Russia's advance.

That has prompted Russia - via its state media propaganda networks - to warn of a 'de-facto' war with NATO, which it argues could spiral into a nuclear Third World War.

Poland, which shares a long land border with Ukraine, has been reinforced with NATO troops and has been rapidly buying up latest-generation American weaponry in recent months to try and deter Russia from attacking.

The Baltic states - long viewed as NATO's Achilles heel - are also ramping up calls for reinforcements to fend off any threat of attack.

Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, head of NATO relations at Estonia's foreign ministry, told The Independent: 'We need a new, more robust posture that will significantly strengthen the deterrence and defense of the eastern flank.

'Putin is not deterred. We should look at what Putin has been saying in his strategic aims including mentioning the former Soviet Union.

NATO leaders are greeted by Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia as they attend a gala dinner in Madrid last night, ahead of the first full day of talks today

NATO leaders are greeted by Spain's King Felipe and Queen Letizia as they attend a gala dinner in Madrid last night, ahead of the first full day of talks today

King Felipe VI of Spain delivers his speech to NATO leaders at a Royal Gala dinner during a NATO summit at the Royal Palace in Madrid

King Felipe VI of Spain delivers his speech to NATO leaders at a Royal Gala dinner during a NATO summit at the Royal Palace in Madrid

'As a direct neighbor we can't just overlook those statements. We are small, we are located far northeast next to Russia. We don't have anywhere to retreat to, we have nowhere to go. That is why we need to have as much in place as possible.'

Fears over the Suwalki Gap ramped up last week, when Lithuania - one of the Baltic states - stopped Russia moving goods across its territory, in line with EU sanctions.

The Lithuanian route was a key supply line between Belarus, a close ally of Russia, and Kaliningrad - an enclave of Russian territory on the Baltic Sea.

The Suwalki Gap links Belarus and Kaliningrad, running through the territory of both Lithuania and Poland who are NATO member states.

They fear Putin could launch a lightning assault to occupy the territory, reopening Kaliningrad's supply lines while also cutting off the Baltic states from mainland Europe and making reinforcement much harder.

That is why they are lobbying NATO to move sufficient forces into the region to hold back a Russian invasion now, rather than wait until an attack is already underway to deploy its armies.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, NATO had around 3,700 troops stationed across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as part of a so-called

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