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31 Mar, 2024 01:26

Netherlands to field Patriot missiles close to Russian border

The Dutch air defense unit will hold NATO “readiness” drills in Lithuania
Netherlands to field Patriot missiles close to Russian border

The Netherlands will deploy a Patriot air defense unit to its NATO ally Lithuania as part of a summer joint air defense exercise, the Dutch Defense Ministry announced this week.

The several-week-long drill is essential to strengthening air defenses on the eastern flank, the Dutch military claimed in a press release on Thursday. The stated goal is to test the ability of NATO troops to quickly transport and deploy such units to a given area. The decision to position a US-made system near the Russian border “contributes to the readiness of NATO air defense,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren claimed in the release.

Vilnius welcomed the exercise as excellent news, noting the Dutch will be training in the no-notice redeployment of such units alongside the Lithuanian armed forces. The US-led military bloc’s Enhanced Forward Presence forces are “vital for the Baltic states’ security,” Defense Minister Laurynas Kasciunas said on Friday, calling for more deployments and exercises involving NATO aircraft and ground-based air defense systems in her country.

It’s unclear what the Dutch deployment of Patriot units in Lithuania will entail. A single battery of the air defense system consists of multiple truck-mounted units, including power, radar, antenna, engagement control and other support vehicles, as well as up to eight launchers with interceptor missiles.

The Netherlands has been one of the few countries to supply two of their Patriot launchers to Ukraine, along with the US and Germany, which each sent a full battery.

The deployment will follow NATO’ ongoing military exercise Steadfast Defender 2024, one of the biggest in decades, which features some 90,000 troops, more than a thousand combat vehicles, over 50 naval vessels, 80 helicopters, drones and fighter jets from all 32 member states.

Russia has stated the US-led military bloc’s increased military spending and increasingly frequent military drills demonstrate its “increasingly aggressive nature.” The drills are practicing a “scenario of armed confrontation with Russia,” increasing tensions and destabilizing the world, Russian Security Council secretary Nikolay Patrushev said in early March.

Patrushev described NATO as “an important tool of Washington’s influence on other countries,” which, over the 75 years of its existence as a self-described guarantor of peace and democracy “unleashed more than a hundred wars and military conflicts around the world and is getting ready for more.”

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