As part of the Atlantic Resolve drills, 30 Abrams tanks and 25 infantry fighting vehicles of the United States Army were relocated to Lithuania in the vicinity of the Belarusian border.
What’s going on?
A battalion of U.S. soldiers, dozens of tanks and heavy fighting vehicles will be based in Pabradу, which is in 15 km from the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, from October till spring 2020.
Troop transfer from the U.S. to the European continent will be carried out till December. Vilnius has already assured Minsk that Belarus has nothing to fear.
“Lithuania is interested in the independence of the republic and its territorial integrity. Therefore, I can assure that there are no military or other threats to the sovereignty of Belarus, at least from the West,” said Lithuania’s National Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko instructed the government to adequately respond to the appearance of American tanks and troops at the borders of the country. Minsk believes the unfolding maneuvers are the largest in the past 25 years.
President Lukashenko described the drills as an armoured fist and precedent, “we simply have to respond” without engaging in sabre-rattling. “One shouldn’t belittle its importance. But 30 tanks and 30 armoured vehicles are simply ridiculous against the Belarusian army,” he said.
M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles have been the backbone of the U.S. armoured forces for years. They were developed at the beginning of the 80s, but underwent several upgrades – the equipment became more secure, it received modern electronics and detection systems.
Military expert Andrei Porotnikov explained that although the tanks and infantry vehicles deployed in Lithuania are not the latest models, they are still pretty modern. Belarusian equipment of similar classes is represented by T72B and BMP-2 tanks.
The first model can withstand the Abrams of the earlier versions, but cannot cope with the latest. The flaws of the tanks could be eliminated by tuning them up to the T-72B3 version, but there are very few such vehicles in Belarus’ army.
However, “tanks do not fight tanks”, helicopters, anti-tank systems and other weapons are used for this purpose. Besides, the amount of military equipment in Pabrade is small, and a single battalion does not carry any serious threat to the army of the whole country.
Is the situation extraordinary?
The U.S. military has been serving on a rotational basis in the Baltic States and Eastern Europe since 2014. They have not been deployed so close to the Belarusian border, but on the whole, there is nothing special about it. On 28 October, 18 British Challenger tanks were supposed to arrive in Estonia, tanks from the U.S. and Italy arrived in Latvia in June.
The reason for the concern of the Belarusian side is not in the military sphere but in the political. Recall that Belarus has consistently advocated a direct dialogue with NATO, including questions on the alliance’s activity on the eastern flank.
Thus, such a reaction can be explained by a desire to encourage the North Atlantic Treaty countries to engage in direct dialogue and improve negotiating positions with Russia on issues that are generally not related to security. These are economic relations, the oil and gas sector and so on.