A battery of Patriot long-range anti-aircraft missiles were deployed Monday to Lithuania for a NATO exercise at Russia’s doorstep.
The Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — currently only possess short-range anti-aircraft missiles, leaving the skies unprotected in the event of aggression.
“Air defense, including ground-based defenses, is one of the holes in our defenses, and we will not solve it without help from our allies,” Defense Minister Raimondas Karoblis told Reuters.
While the Patriot battery will be withdrawn at the end of the exercise July 22, the Lithuanian defense ministry believes the deployment shows a taboo has been removed in the region.
“The deployment of Patriots is important because it demonstrates that such moves are no longer a taboo in the region,” Karoblis told Reuters. “It proves that the missiles can be brought to wherever they are needed, which is very important.”
Poland, another NATO ally in the region, announced a deal to buy Patriot missile defense systems July 5. Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said in March that the contact would be worth around $8 billion. The first deliveries could take place within the next two years.
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