NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė will on Thursday officially announce the opening of the NATO Force Integration Units (NFIU) in Lithuania and five other Central and Eastern European countries that want greater NATO presence in the region to deter Russia.
Jens Stoltenberg and Dalia Grybauskaitė
© DELFI (R.Achmedovo nuotr.)

The NATO command centres in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania were officially activated on Tuesday.

Around 40 officers will serve at each of the NFIU set up by NATO to facilitate rapid deployment of the NATO Very High Readiness Joint Task Force and also coordinate international exercises.

The NFIU in Lithuania will be led by Danish Colonel Jakob Sogard Larsen. Its staff will also include representatives of more than ten NATO countries, including Germany, Canada and Poland. All officers are scheduled to arrive by the end of this year.

Following the official opening ceremony in Vilnius, the NATO secretary general and the Lithuanian president are scheduled to hold a joint press conference.

In response to Russia's annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and unrest in Eastern Ukraine, NATO stepped up exercises in the Baltic Sea region, air and sea patrol, and the United States pledged to deploy heavy weaponry.

The Baltic states and Poland have also asked for military units to be permanently deployed in the region to deter Russia but some allies in Europe believe such deployment might violate the 1997 agreement with Moscow and fuel tension in the region. Company-size US army units are currently deployed in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.

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