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Russian Aggression Spurs Lithuania to Prepare for Possible Invasion


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RUKLA, Lithuania Many thought the fall of the Soviet Union would bring a new era of peace and stability to Europe. But the Soviet Union was replaced by something potentially far more dangerous Vladimir Putin. And many nations on Russia's border are worried about Russian intentions, including the tiny Baltic state of Lithuania.

In the forests outside the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, civilians train in military tactics and guerilla warfare. Lithuania is preparing for a Russian invasion. Citizens are learning how to survive on their own in the forest, how to collect and filter water and how to build makeshift shelters and stoves.

This might seem like some kind of paranoid over-reaction, but Lithuania, which shares a border with Russia and which has a terrible history of invasion and genocide at the hands of Moscow, is deadly serious. And recent Russian aggression in other former Soviet republics has spurred this nation of 3 million people to mobilize.

Žilvinas Pastarnoka of Defense Projects, one of the leaders of the guerilla warfare training says, "Just look at Ukraine, look at Syria. It's the duty of young and old to be prepared to protect their homeland."

NATO's Show of Solidarity

But the Lithuanians have not been left to fight on their own. The Americans are here as part of a NATO deployment by several nations to deter a Russian invasion.

When CBN News arrived at Rukla military base, soldiers of the U.S. 503rd Infantry Airborne Battalion and Lithuanian troops were learning life-saving medical skills during a live fire exercise.

The paratroopers of Able Company are learning how to keep their comrades alive on the battlefield. They're training for a hot war in Europe. They're trying to simulate the pressure of combat.

"We have different tasks they're being evaluated on," Captain Tony Formica, the company commander, said.

"We're assuring our NATO allies through our presence here and deterring any possible aggression by continually showing our readiness, our overall lethality and our ability to operate with our NATO allies and partners," Formica said.

In the likely event that U.S. troops are outnumbered in a Russian invasion, today's exercise is to make sure every shot fired from their M4 rifles is a lethal shot.

Captain Formica says he's impressed with the caliber of the Lithuanian soldier.

"They have a very compelling belief in the defense of their country," he said. "The other thing we've been impressed with is their overall professionalism."

Lithuanian Sgt. Maj. Linas Anskaitis said, "Our battalion conscripts are very, very happy, very motivated when they get the opportunity to train together with the U.S. guys." 

'It's Not Science Fiction'

Lithuania's foreign minister says the nation has good reason to be prepared.

"You know, when we're talking, it's not abstract. It's not science fiction. It's the 21st century and in Europe we have a situation where a permanent member of the [U.N.] Security Council [Russia] is conducting aggression against neighbors, redrawing, changing European borders," Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius explained.

Last year, Lithuania reinstated the draft.  And the government is releasing a series of books for civilians on what to do in a Russian invasion. Dr. Karolis Aleksa with the Ministry of National Defence co-authored the books.

"We published because there were many questions: What to do in time of mobilization? How we can resist? How we can contribute to the defense of the country?" he said.

Dr. Aleksa also told CBN News that the Lithuanian government is looking at ways to get firearms in the hands of civilians, who would store them at home.

Never Again

The former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, where Lithuanians were tortured and executed during the Soviet occupation, is now The Museum of Genocide Victims. One third of Lithuania's population was either deported to Siberia or murdered under Soviet rule.

In World War II, Soviet tanks rolled into Lithuania without a shot being fired. The Lithuanian government is saying never again.

"My father was raised in the forests of southern Lithuania and a popular saying was, 'Spring will come, the cuckoo will sing, and we will pave our road with the corpses of Russian soldiers,'" Rimvydas Matuzonis, a guerilla warfare trainer, said.

During our stay it was clear that the Americans and the Lithuanians want the Russians to know that NATO is here, so if Putin should try to take Lithuania, this time it's not going to be easy.

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About The Author


Since joining CBN News, Dale has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America. Dale also covered China's opening to capitalism in the early 1990s, as well as the Yugoslav Civil War. CBN News awarded him its Command Performance Award for his reporting from Moscow and Sarajevo. Since 9/11, Dale has reported extensively on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe. Follow Dale on Twitter @dalehurd and "like" him at