Raimundas Karoblis said increased Russian military capabilities posed a threat to Baltic states and his country “can’t afford to lose our independence”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the politician spoke about rising tensions and Russian aggression in the region.
“Yes it is a risk, the annexation of Crimea Russia showed that it’s quite difficult to make [a] prognosis about Russia’s behaviour,” he said. “Aggression in the east of Ukraine, Russia’s behaviour in Syria and elsewhere.”
He insisted “increased Russian military capability” posed a “risk” as host Nick Robinson asked whether the threat of invasion was “so real” that it needed to hand out manuals.
Raimundas Karoblis spoke of an imminent threat from Russia
We need to prepare for defence – we can’t afford to lose our independence once more and yes we are building our capabilities
“Well we need to prepare for defence – we can’t afford to lose our independence once more and yes we are building our capabilities,” he replied.
When asked if he thought Russia would “look for an excuse” to invade and say Russian-speaking residents called for help, Mr Karoblis said it was a “possibility”.
“But as I said I hope that it will not happen,” he added. “Some politicians in Russia are already making parallels with Crimea, [with] some territories from Lithuania and Baltic territories [and] that some territories were gifts of Stalin to Lithuania, which is not true.”
Nato forces have since taken positions in Lithuania and Russian-bordering Baltic nations in the ongoing stand-off with Russia.
4,000 NATO troops take part in Lithuania’s largest exercise near Russia’s border Mon, November 28, 2016
Eleven NATO countries have sent 4,000 troops to Lithuania, the largest Baltic nation, to participate in this year’s Iron Sword exercises. The war games are meant to test the country’s ability to rapidly deploy a large number of troops.
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Members of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade fire blanks from a machine gun during a simulated attack
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Russian soldiers taking part in a military exercise
However, the military alliance has come under fire from Donald Trump, who called the organisation “obsolete” during his election campaign.
He slammed Nato members for failing to contribute sufficiently to its budget.
When asked if Lithuania will “pay up”, Mr Karoblis replied: “Yes of course and we are paying already.”
He said his defence budget had “increased more than twice from 2014 and next year we will meet [the] 2 per cent target”.
The politician also said he felt “fully reassured” by the US after its Defence Secretary James Mattis hailed Nato as the “fundamental bedrock” of trans-Atlantic relations on Wednesday.
Mr Karoblis added: “Nato is an alliance of countries of the same values.”
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