Germany may send more troops to Lithuania, Scholz signals

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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during his first questioning session with lawmakers at the lower house of parliament Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/File Photo

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BERLIN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signalled on Sunday he was open to deploying more troops to Lithuania to bolster NATO's eastern flank in response to a build-up of Russian troops near the borders of Ukraine.

The United States already ordered about 3,000 extra troops to bolster NATO in Poland and Romania in response to the fears of a Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic. read more

"We are ready to do all that is necessary to strengthen" the German-led battlegroup in Lithuania, Scholz said in an interview with ARD broadcaster shortly before his overnight flight to Washington to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden.

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The chancellor said he would discuss this with the heads of the three Baltic states who are set to visit him in Berlin next Thursday.

He nonetheless once more ruled out weapons deliveries to Ukraine due to Germany's policy not to send arms to conflict zones - a stance rooted in the country's bloody 20th century history that has come under scrutiny of late. read more

NATO deployed four multinational combat units which have some 5,000 troops in total to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in response to Moscow's annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine in 2014.

These so-called NATO battlegroups, led by the United States, Germany, Canada and Britain, are meant to stall an attack in the region and buy time for additional NATO troops to reach the frontline.

Scholz said he saw some improvement in the tensions between the West and Russia with an increase in dialogue whether between the United States and Russia or in the so-called Normandy format of talks between France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine.

"That had been lifeless for a long time," he said in a separate interview with RTL broadcaster.

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Reporting by Sarah Marsh, Markus Wacket and Andreas Rinke Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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