Poland and the Baltic states raised concern around October 2016 following Russia’s deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, a Russian territory wedged between Poland and Lithuania.
Yesterday, Poland welcomed several thousand U.S. troops along with tanks and heavy equipment under a planned NATO operation to beef up its Eastern European allies. This fulfills a dream some Poles have had since the fall of communism in 1989 to have U.S. troops on their soil as a deterrent against Russia.
But Russia is not happy and feels threatened by this move. “These actions threaten our interests, our security,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday. “Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It’s not even a European state.”
Nevertheless, the first of the arriving US troops, reportedly from Fort Carson, Colorado, will be followed with more than 3,000 soldiers, tanks and other military equipment deployed in Poland via Germany and nearby NATO partners. Among their equipment will be 87 Abrams M1A1 tanks, 20 Paladin artillery vehicles and 136 Bradley fighting vehicles.
The forces will branch out to seven Eastern European countries from Estonia to Bulgaria on a rotational basis within the next two weeks.
In addition to US troops, NATO members Germany, Canada and Britain are also sending up to 1,000 troops, each to the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
The mission, one of the largest deployments of US forces in Europe since the Cold War, is targeting deterrence and prevention of threats,” U.S. Army Colonel Christopher R. Norrie, commander of the 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team, said at a welcome ceremony in Poland’s western city of Zagan.
It is part of a larger commitment by President Barack Obama to protect a region that grew deeply nervous when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then began backing separatist rebels in Ukraine’s east.
The arrival of the troops will be announced in official ceremonies on Saturday, tomorrow.
There are fears, however, that the enhanced security could eventually be undermined by the pro-Kremlin views of President-elect Donald Trump.