"It's definitely a turning point that I believe will encourage NATO and our strategic allies to reconsider our deterrence architecture," Kasciunas told BNS on Monday.
His comment came in response to Belarusian Defense Minister Viktor Khrenin's announcement on Sunday that the joint Belarusian-Russian army drills, which had been scheduled to end on February 20, would continue. He did not say when they would be completed.
"The reaction to what happened already should in fact be a completely different deterrence architecture in the Baltic states. We need forces not only in Poland but also behind the Suwalki Corridor. That's what our diplomatic goal should be right now," the committee chair said.
In his words, under the existing circumstances, Lithuania is becoming a West Berlin during the Cold War years.
"That border of almost 700 km with Belarus should in fact be considered a border with the Russian Federation as Belarus no longer has independence. I would like to remind you that (Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir – BNS) held a press conference and said they would definitely withdraw. Where's Makei now?" Kasciunas said.
In his words, various scenarios are possible, including the one that Russian troops could stay in Belarus once alleged training centers are established there or troops might be withdrawn but equipment could stay.
The maximum possible deployment of forward presence forces in the Baltic states as well as the permanent uninterrupted presence of American troops should be part of the deterrence architecture, Kasciunas said.
"Now (Russia's – BNS) intensions are directed against Ukraine but if we don’t have sufficient deterrence, those intensions might change and a wish might arise to test something else. The deterrence architecture should be fundamentally bolstered in our region," the committee chair said.
Kasciunas also backs the proposal to revise the national defense budget, adding that that would not only demonstrate political will but would also consolidate Lithuania's status as a host country.
"We can do lots of things to bolster the host country status, build infrastructure and improve conditions for allies. It’s possible to do that fast. Other things, probably, need more time, but the political message is, nevertheless, very important," the politician said.
Based on US data, Russia deployed 30,000 troops to Belarus for joint army drills. They were scheduled to end on February 20 but it was announced on that day that the drills would continue in response to rising tensions in neighboring Ukraine.
The ongoing joint drills in Belarus are raising concern that Russia plans to invade Ukraine, which Moscow denies.