NATO allies have sent troops, jets, air defense systems, artillery and police to Lithuania ahead of Tuesday’s annual summit in Vilnius.
Lithuania shares a border with Belarus, Russia’s closest ally in tis war with Ukraine, and Vilnius is just 20 miles (32 km) from that border and just 94 miles (151 km) from Russia.
Sixteen of NATO’s 31 member nations have reportedly sent a total of roughly 1,000 troops to safeguard the two-day summit, and many are providing air defense systems that Lithuania lacks.
“It would be more than irresponsible to have our sky unprotected as Biden and leaders of 40 countries are arriving,” said Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda.
President Biden arrived in Vilnius around noon ET Monday for the Tuesday-Wednesday summit.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to be among the non-NATO leaders who attend, as well.
Lithuania, along with Baltic nations Estonia and Latvia, were under the Kremlin’s rule during the Cold War, but all three are now NATO member nations and have been members of the European Union since 2004.
Germany deployed 12 Patriot missile launchers to Lithuania, which are used to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles or warplanes.
Spain also sent an air defense system to Lithuania while France is deploying CAESAR self-propelled howitzers. France, Finland and Denmark are sending military jets while both France and the United Kingdom are supplying anti-drone systems.
Lithuania has tripled the number of guards at its border with Belarus, as well as at its border with the Russian-controlled Kaliningrad Oblast. Further, border checks on Lithuania’s borders with allies Poland and Latvia have been reintroduced amid the summit.
The mayor of Vilnius has suggested citizens take vacations outside the city if they want to avoid disruptions, as large parts of central Vilnius will be closed off for the summit.