After serving as part of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battle Group in Estonia in 2017, the French contingent is joining the German-led NATO eFP in Lithuania in 2018 to serve alongside other allies’ contingents in Rukla integrated into the Mechanised Infantry Brigade Iron Wolf of the Lithuanian Armed Forces.
“We greatly appreciate France’s decision to contribute to the deterrence and defence measures in the Baltic region. Beyond doubt, it demonstrates the solidarity and unity among members of the Alliance,” Minister of National Defence Raimundas Karoblis said.
The French contingent in full arrived by plane at the Lithuanian Air Force Base in Šiauliai on January 10. The Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel Martin Wenceslas and personnel were welcomed by representative of the Iron Wolf Brigade leadership Lieutenant Colonel Darius Bernotas.
The French soldiers are planned to be serving in Lithuania for 8 months contributing to the enhanced NATO deterrence and defence measures in the Baltic states. Deployment procedures for the French contingent will be fully completed over January and in late February the unit will be fully ready to take part in exercises and training of the NATO eFP in Lithuania.
At the end of February the French contingent will be composed of almost 300 soldiers, roughly 200 of them as a mechanized infantry company, and 100 soldiers will manage logistic and administration affairs. The French troops will serve as one of the NATO eFP maneuver companies, in combat support units and the NATO eFP Lithuania HQ.
Troops and equipment are deployed from the 5th Dragoon Regiment located in Mailly le Camp and equipped with the best assets in the French Army, and from the 7th Mountain Infantry Battalion, a battalion well-adapted with the relevant knowledge to conduct the training period within the NATO eFP Lithuania.
Like all the other eFP contingents, the French soldiers are bringing their combat, logistical and administrative equipment. The maneuver unit will be serving with Leclerc main battle tanks and VBCI infantry fighting vehicles.
First French troops deployed in Lithuania in late December, formal deployment ceremony in Rukla is planned to take place in the end of January.
Once the French soldiers are integrated, the NATO eFP Lithuania will comprise over 1,200 troops. The multinational unit is also planned to be joined by the Czech Republic this year.
The most important of the security assurances Lithuania was given at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July of 2016 was the mutual Alliance’s decision to deploy enhanced Forward Presence forces as of 2017 in the Baltic states and Poland. The decision, as part of the overall NATO posture, is intended to be an unambiguous demonstration of allied solidarity, resolve and ability to act immediately in responding to any aggression. The NATO Heads of States and Governments adopted the decision as a response to the Russian aggression in Ukraine and changes in the geopolitical situation. Establishment of the eFP signals allied NATO solidarity and embodies the concept of reliable deterrence and defence.