Poland and Lithuania will conduct joint military exercises around the Suwałki Gap, a strategically sensitive area along the Polish-Lithuanian border between the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus.
The plans were announced during a visit by Polish President Andrzej Duda to his Lithuanian counterpart, Gitanas Nausėda, in Vilnius.
“I’m very happy that the Polish president has responded with enthusiasm to the desire to have a joint exercise in this area called the Suwalki Gap,” said Nausėda in a joint interview by the two presidents with news website Delfi.
Nausėda noted that the Suwałki Gap “is an integral part of NATO’s strategic plans” while Duda described it as “sensitive in terms of European security”. The corridor has long been seen as a potential weak point in a war with Russia and tensions there have increased since the invasion of Ukraine.
Nausėda added that Lithuania and Poland are still discussing the timing of the exercises, but that it was likely they would take place in April. He also revealed that there were broader plans for the two countries to “step up military cooperation”.
Duda, meanwhile, told Delfi that “Russian imperialism has reawoken after 30 years”. He warned that, if “it is not stopped in Ukraine, it will keep going”.
The Polish president noted that, due to this threat, Poland has been “restoring defence capabilities in the eastern part of our country, strengthening the military presence, as well as strengthening border protection”.
Today, with 🇵🇱President @AndrzejDuda, we agreed to continue expanding our bilateral defense cooperation, improving military mobility and ensuring the presence of Allies in the region.
Our security and defense cooperation is key to prosperity of our nations. pic.twitter.com/MDkTPOzGIF
— Gitanas Nausėda (@GitanasNauseda) January 21, 2024
Lithuania and Poland last conducted a joint exercise at the beginning of July 2023 in the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda, where special forces from both countries trained in recovering seized critical infrastructure.
In 2022, the pair also signed the so-called Orsha agreement under which they launched closer coordination of defence activities around the Suwałki Gap.
Both countries have also faced a crisis on their borders with Belarus, where since 2021 tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers – mostly from Asia, Africa and the Middle East – have sought to cross into the EU in what has been described as part of a “hybrid attack”.
Wagner forces in Belarus have moved towards the Suwałki Gap between Poland and Lithuania, says Poland’s PM
The mercenaries will mount “hybrid attacks” by helping migrants illegally enter Poland and may even enter themselves disguised as migrants, he warns https://t.co/RqxXeGtKoa
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) July 29, 2023
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Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.