WASHINGTON : Poland’s defence minister has said US ground forces will be sent to Poland to expand NATO’s presence there as events continue to unfold in neighboring Ukraine, The Washington Post reported.
Tomasz Siemoniak told the Post Friday that military planners were already working on the details and that Poland would play a lead role ‘under US patronage.’ He added that US ground troops would also likely be sent to the Baltic states, under the push to increase NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe. An announcement of the deployment plan is expected to be made next week, the Post cited Siemoniak as saying.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby meanwhile said a range of measures were being considered to bolster air, maritime and ground readiness in Europe.
‘Some of those activities will be pursued bilaterally with individual NATO nations. Some will be pursued through the Alliance itself.’ During a Thursday news conference with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Siemoniak stopped short of calling for the establishment of US military bases, as requested by the conservative Polish opposition.
But, said Hagel, ‘there may be some new opportunities for rotational-basis forces.’ Hagel also reassured NATO members such as the Baltic states and Poland that Washington was ‘fully’ committed to making sure their territory is respected, in accordance with NATO obligations. Since the start of the Ukrainian crisis, the Pentagon has sent 12 F-16 fighter jets and their support teams to Poland.
Hagel said the planes would stay there until the end of the year, as he called on other European NATO members to contribute reinforcements. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has balked at setting up bases in members states that once belonged to the Soviet bloc, in an effort to avoid angering Russia.