Lithuanian Defence Minister, Arvydas Anusauskas, warned on Thursday, that Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, and will deploy id some eastern European countries are allowed to join NATO.
Lithuania which remains one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies warned NATO on Thursday that if Sweden and Finland joined the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance then Russia would have to bolster its defences in the region, including by deploying nuclear weapons.
Anusauskas told Lithuania’s BNS wire that ‘nuclear weapons’ have been deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea since, before the current crisis.
“The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania’s border,” the minister was quoted by the wire on Thursday.
“Nuclear weapons have always been kept in Kaliningrad … the international community, the countries in the region, are perfectly aware of this … They use it as a threat,” he was quoted.
Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, on the shore of the Baltic Sea, is sandwiched between NATO members Lithuania and Poland.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte on Thursday said the Russian threat to increase military, including nuclear, in the Baltic region was “nothing new.”
As at Wednesday, April 13, two more countries had indicated readiness to join NATO.
NATO, a defence initiative in Western Europe powered by the United States, is seen by Russia as a stumbling block in the militarization of the bloc, and its domination of countries on the axis since the end of the Cold war era.
However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the latter’s growing military might and later decision to join the NATO initiation, has now compelled other countries in the region to scramble to join NATO, as uncertainty over their own security topped reasons for the new move.
Finland’s Prime Minister, Ms Sanna Mirella Marin, announced, Tuesday, that her country will make a decision within the next few weeks about applying to join NATO
Finland is kick-starting a debate now which may result in the country applying for NATO membership within weeks.
Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the latest polls in the country suggest there is now a majority in favour of joining.
Early Wednesday, Sweden’s Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, said her country has decided to apply for NATO membership, after weeks of hesitation in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Already, countries like Georgia and Moldova have received their questionnaires to join the European Union (EU) from the organisation’s Enlargement Commissioner, Oliver Varhelyi, an important moment at the start of a long entry process, on Monday.
The document was ‘the first step on your European path,’ Varhelyi told Georgia’s Foreign Minister Ilia Darchiashvili at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.
The document served as the basis for EU accession talks for applicants.
Moldova and Georgia applied for membership in the bloc after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Ukraine had also applied for entry in view of the Russian invasion.
In a gesture of solidarity, European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen personally delivered a questionnaire to Kiev, last Friday.
Fears over NATO expansion into eastern Europe is said to be at the centre of the Ukrainian invasion by Russia. However, with other countries now scrambling to join the union to safeguard their future from invasions, Russia’s foreign policy has been dealt a huge blow, in what could escalate further tensions in the region.