Member state calls on NATO to abandon key agreement with Russia
NATO states should be less concerned about Russia’s nuclear capability and station troops near its border on a permanent rather than rotational basis, the president of Lithuania has argued, as his nation hosts a summit of the US-led military bloc.
“With Russia taking active steps to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus… we should finally pronounce this NATO-Russia Founding Act dead,” Gitanas Nauseda told The Times newspaper.
He was referring to the 1997 treaty between the alliance and Russia, which includes a ban on deploying permanent military contingents close to Russian territory. Moscow has argued that NATO has long been breaching the spirit of the agreement by rotating military missions in Eastern Europe and ignoring Russian complaints about those deployments.
Lithuania is seeking to host 4,000 German troops on a permanent basis. Nauseda claimed the Founding Act “still contaminates thinking in some of the [NATO] capitals” and keeps the alliance “in the gray zone of strategic ambivalence.”
The Russian stationing of nuclear weapons in ally Belarus was announced earlier this year, with the parties maintaining that it was done on Minsk’s request. The US has been keeping its own nuclear weapons in non-nuclear states, including Germany, Italy, Sweden and Türkiye, for decades.
Western officials have dismissed the Russian move as being part of supposed “nuclear blackmail” by President Vladimir Putin. Belarus cited the increased NATO presence in the region as the reason why it asked Russia to deploy nuclear weapons on its soil.
Moscow says the US and its allies have launched a proxy war against it, with Ukraine serving as one of its tools. It considers NATO’s expansion in Europe, which was done in violation of promises given to it in the 1980s and 1990s, as a major threat to its national security.
A year before open hostilities broke out, Russia attempted to defuse the looming crisis by negotiating concessions from the military alliance, but the proposal was rejected.
Lithuania is among the NATO members advocating for Ukraine to be offered a path to rapid accession during this week’s summit in Vilnius. Such a move “would strengthen the Ukrainian state and especially it will strengthen their fighting spirit,” Nauseda argued.