Polish and Lithuanian leaders oversee military drills along their shared border

Polish President Andrzej Duda says “a potential aggressor must see our readiness” as he and his Lithuanian counterpart monitored a joint military drill along their shared border

Mindaugas Kulbis,Liudas Dapkus
Friday 26 April 2024 14:20 BST

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Polish President Andrzej Duda said Friday that “a potential aggressor must see our readiness" as he and his Lithuanian counterpart monitored a joint military drill along their shared border.

Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda met on the last day of the week-long Brave Griffin 24/II military exercise along the Suwalki Gap, a strategically important stretch of land that's considered a potential flashpoint area in case of a standoff between Russia and NATO.

The border, almost 100 kilometers (62 miles) long between NATO members Poland and Lithuania, is also a land corridor between Belarus, a Moscow ally, and Russia’s Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad.

“There is a potential threat, which is why these exercises are going on," Duda said.

The drill included 1,500 Lithuanian infantry soldiers, nearly 200 members of Poland’s 15th Mechanized Brigade, and U.S. and Portuguese military personnel.

Until recently the land border was seen as vulnerable because if Russia were to ever seize the Suwalki Gap, it could leave Lithuania and the other two Baltic states, Latvia and Estonia, cut off from Poland and other NATO allies.

However that perception of the corridor has changed since Sweden joined NATO in March, as the Baltic Sea now is almost surrounded by NATO countries and any attempts to cut off the corridor would not leave Baltic countries severed. The Baltic Sea is Russia’s maritime point of access to the city of St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad, which is separated from the Russian mainland.

The border stretch, named after a nearby Polish town, also provides land access connections between Belarus and Kaliningrad. Russian citizens have a visa waiver arrangement for passing through the area.

—— Dapkus reported from Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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