Belgium is sending 150 soldiers to Lithuania, where they will be part of a NATO combat group in the framework of the protection of NATO’s eastern flank. Most of the troops left on Wednesday, the rest will follow next week.
On Wednesday, a Fokker F100 of the Austrian airline Trade Air took off from Melsbroek Military Airport. On board: 80 Belgian soldiers of the Ardennes fighters, military police, the 29th Logistics Battalion and the medical component. The military will fly to Lithuania, where they will be stationed at the NATO base of Rukla.
Four companies (army units with 100 to 250 soldiers) are already present there: a German (Germany is in charge of the mission in Lithuania), A Dutch, a Czech and a Norwegian company. Belgium therefore supplies a fifth unit, while Luxembourg also has some military personnel on site.
The objective of the eFP (enhanced Forward Presence) is to install military presence on NATO’s eastern flank. Originally there were four battlegroups, in Poland and in each of the Baltic states. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, four additional combat groups were added, in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.
The Belgian 150-strong company will stay in Lithuania for six months. Since last week, some soldiers have been on site to lead the build-up for the Belgian departures. On August 7, a ship left with the vehicles and equipment of the servicemen, and on August 10, the first 80 soldiers left. No later than next week, a second flight will fly, with the rest of the company on board. For many servicemen, it is the first foreign mission, and immediately for a long time.
Although the primary purpose of the mission is to be present on the eastern flank, thereby sending a dissuasive message to Russia (do not attack, or else…), the cooperation between NATO forces from different countries is also particularly instructive for the military. This is the sixth time that Belgium has participated in the eFP mission in Eastern Europe.