Days after Wagner’s short-lived mutiny in southern Russia as the group of mercenaries marched toward Moscow, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Lithuania, “I think what we’re seeing in Russia over the last days demonstrates the fragility of the [Russian] regime, and, of course, it is a demonstration of weakness.”
“We see the weakness of the Russian regime and it also demonstrates how difficult and dangerous it is for President Putin,” he added.
In light of the arrival of Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin’s arrival via private jet in Belarus on Tuesday where he fled after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko mediated the end of the Wagner rebellion, Stoltenber and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on Wednesday expressed concern over “instability” in the area and the threat of attacks from the exiled mercenaries.
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“If Wagner deploys its serial killers in Belarus, all neighboring countries face even bigger danger of instability,” Nauseda said.
While Stoltenberg agreed that there is reason for concern, he noted that is still “too early” to determine what Wagner being in Belarus could mean for NATO, but he confirmed that the alliance would protect “every ally, every inch of NATO territory” against threats from “Moscow or Minsk.”
“We have already increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance and we will make further decisions to further strengthen our collective defense with more high-readiness forces and more capabilities at the upcoming summit,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO’s concerns over Wagner in Belarus come during the weeks leading up to the alliance’s major summit in Vilnius July 11-12 where the topic of Sweden’s bid for membership is sure to be of high priority. Meanwhile, Germany recently committed to sending 4,000 troops to be stationed in Lithuania as part of a combined military force.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has also been pushing for a discussion regarding Wagner in Belarus and the security of NATO’s eastern flank.
“This is really serious and very concerning, and we have to make very strong decisions. It requires a very, very tough answer of NATO,” he said.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said this week that a deal has been arranged with Wagner and its leader, Prigozhin, that Wagner mercenaries will be given the option of signing a contract with the Russian defense ministry or “they can go to Belarus.”
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