Visit of the President of the Republic to Lithuania in the framework of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) (29 September 2020) [fr]
As part of his first official visit to Lithuania, President Emmanuel Macron visited the Rukla camp on September 29. Accompanied by the Minister of Armed Forces Florence Parly, he met with French soldiers of the LYNX operational mission integrated into the Battle Group (BG) of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).
The President expressed his gratitude to the French military personnel on the ground, who are demonstrating France’s commitment to NATO and working for European security. The President praised the work done by the French detachment and reiterated his full confidence to the newly arrived troops, forming the operational mission LYNX 8.
With his Lithuanian counterpart, Mr. Nauseda Gitanas, the French President reviewed the troops. At the orders of Captain Boris, the company of the Chad Marching Regiment formed the honorary detachment alongside an element of the First Company of the Algirdas Battalion commanded by First Lieutenant Vikintas Pilipauskas. The President then met with Colonel Mindaugas Petkevičius, commander of the Iron Wolf Brigade, and Lieutenant Colonel Peer Papenbroock, a German officer commanding the eFP BG deployed in Lithuania.
Soldiers of the 5th Dragoon Regiment, who have been deployed in Rukla for three months and are ready to return to France, met with President Macron and presented him the Leclerc tanks and the armored infantry fighting vehicle (VBCI) equipping the detachment. The Vilkas, the Lithuanian Army’s infantry fighting vehicle, was also presented to the two presidents.
On the eve of the visit of the President of the French Republic, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, Colonel Petkeviĉius received us in the heart of his brigade in Rukla.
What does it mean for you to host French soldiers for the second time in your Brigade on the military camp of Rukla ?
To get this on a higher perspective, the French troops in the eFP Battle Group is actually NATO in action. It is a great example of NATO’s commitment to the collective defence. It is providing security to Lithuanian people and the public. If I am going a bit lower to the tactical level, for me as a brigade commander, it is beneficial to have French troops, as well as multinational troops in the team. We are part of the same training site. We do the same training, we cooperate, and we can be more interoperable. The most valuable thing is that we trust each other, which is essential if we have to fight together. I am very happy of the troops here. It would have been great if you could have visited our country but the COVID situation doesn’t allow it. Training wise I am looking forward to the iron wolf exercise. It’s coming along very good. In November, we should have another exercise together with the Lithuanian army. The Iron Wolf Brigade will lead the eFP Battalion troops. We’ll have a full team operating together, planning, defending attacking and learning from each other.
Have you personally already been engaged abroad in a mission alongside French troops for an EU mission, NATO or a mission in Africa for instance?
I had never been working directly with French troops before but I had exposure: I had been deployed in an international environment in Brunssum, at the NATO Allied Joint Force Command, in the Netherlands. I worked alongside French officers in the staff commanding office. There was also a time in Afghanistan while I was working with a provincial reconstruction team and we met French troops in Kabul. France has a long military history. You have your ways of doing things that always succeed. I have only heard good things about French military troops.
Do you have any soldiers from your brigade currently engaged in a mission abroad?
We don’t have many. We send staff officers in different locations. We send people to training missions in Ukraine. We are providing expertise to our Ukrainian friends, we share our soldiers’ skills and shooting skills…it is our focus right now. The Lithuanian army refocused since 2014 on its own national defence. We have established a new national service with our young conscripts.
During these last weeks, we have seen many young troops training on your campsite. It was interesting because we are doing the same. At the beginning of our tour, here in July and August we had also young soldiers who were here to continue their training that had begun in France. They were marching and singing and now it is the turn of the young Lithuanian soldiers.
We have established the conscripts system because we needed military reservist in our troops. However, the main reason is to have our people back in the defence. We build resilience in the society. If we need to defend, we have to defend not only the military forces but all the Lithuanian people.
Text and ITW: Captain Sébastien Isern, French army
Decided by heads of state and government at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence Posture (eFP) allows Allies to deploy limited numbers of military forces to the Baltic States and Poland.
More information on the Lynx mission on the website of the French Ministry of Armies->https://www.defense.gouv.fr/operations/otan/lynx/actualites].