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French President Macron to visit Lithuania and Latvia


French President Macron to visit Lithuania and Latvia

Macron visits Baltics
Photo: Johanna Geron/ Reuters

President Emmanuel Macron of France will meet with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda today in Vilnius.

The talks will include a review of French forces within NATO’s enhanced forward presence battalion in Rukla. Fallout from recent protests against Putin ally President Alexander Lukashenko’s rule in Belarus has made fortification of ties with Western Europe an urgent priority for Latvia and Lithuania. Both countries recognise Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as the legitimate winner of Belarus’s recent presidential election and have sanctioned Belarus following Lukashenko’s refusal to leave office. The controversy has also intensified concern that Belarus will be subsumed into Russia as part of a new ‘unity state’ if Lukashenko retains control.

Expect increased coordination of defence arrangements among the Baltic states and France. In 2019, at France’s request, Lithuania sent soldiers to Mali for a UN peacekeeping operation, while France has escalated its military presence in the Baltics over that that time. Similar exchanges of forces and efforts to strengthen military interoperability are probable within the near future. While Lithuania and France regard closer partnership as key to navigating potential Russian aggression in Europe’s periphery, the Russian government will read such partnership as something of an incitement, as it views extensive European dealings with the Baltics as encroachment.

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