Lithuanian Archbishop Gintaras Grusas said citizens are anxious about military threats from neighbouring Russia but said support from Europe and the United States helped calm those fears.
The US-born archbishop, president of the Lithuanian bishops’ conference, told Catholic News Service, “The old Soviet empire mentality is still alive, and there are many in Russia who consider the three Baltic states part of that empire.
“But Lithuanians have fought hard to re-establish their independence and are committed to maintaining it. They’ve shown they’re willing to pay a price for freedom – and they’re showing it again today in the turnout of volunteers for military service,” said the Vilnius archbishop.
In early 2017, NATO plans to send 3,000 troops to Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland, to counter Russia’s military buildup in the Baltic region.
Archbishop Grusas said the projected US-led deployments had provided “some reassurance,” but cautioned that concern remained high because of repeated airspace violations and the stationing of heavy weaponry in Russia’s military enclave of Kaliningrad, on Lithuania’s western border.
Picture: An Estonian soldier takes part in training in Adazi, Latvia, on 31st October. (CNS photo/Valda Kalnina, EPA).