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More US troops in Poland to deter Russia amid Ukraine crisis

07.02.2022 07:30
More aircraft carrying US troops and army equipment landed in Poland over the weekend as part of efforts to bolster NATO's eastern flank amid the West's standoff with Russia over Ukraine, officials said.
A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet carrying a group of US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division lands at Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in southeastern Poland on Sunday.
A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet carrying a group of US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division lands at Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in southeastern Poland on Sunday.Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

On Sunday, a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet carrying a group of US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division landed at Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport in the southeast of the country, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak told the media that "more planes will be landing in the coming hours" as America seeks to reinforce its NATO allies in Eastern Europe amid a Russian military buildup near Ukraine.

Earlier, transport planes loaded with US military equipment and a jet carrying the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, US Army Major General Christopher Donahue, landed at the airport.

"Our national contribution here in Poland shows our solidarity with all of our allies here in Europe and obviously during this period of uncertainty we know that we are stronger together," Donahue said on Sunday, as quoted by the Reuters news agency.

US Army Major General Christopher Donahue. US Army Major General Christopher Donahue. Photo: PAP/Darek Delmanowicz

Poland's Błaszczak said in a series of tweets that the arrival of US troops in Poland "is the best response to threats to NATO's eastern flank."

He added that American soldiers "will operate in the southeastern part of the country."

Błaszczak also tweeted that the arrival of US soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division "is our allied response to the growing crisis caused by Russia's aggressive actions."

"We are consistently strengthening the security of Poland and NATO's eastern flank," he said.

Błaszczak said in a televised statement that "the arrival of American soldiers proves that allied responsibilities are being treated very seriously," reflecting the motto that "we are stronger together" and that NATO allies stand "in solidarity with one another."

On Wednesday, the Pentagon announced that the United States would send 1,700 extra troops to Poland and around 1,000 to Romania to reassure its Eastern European NATO allies in the face of a major Russian military buildup near Ukraine's border.

A spokesman for the US Defense Department said at the time that around 1,700 US service members, mainly from the 82nd Airborne Division, would deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Poland, while a Stryker squadron of about 1,000 service members based in Vilseck, Germany would be sent to Romania.

Three hundred other service members will move from Fort Bragg to Germany, the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, told a news conference.

The aim is to send a "strong signal" to Russian President Vladimir Putin "and frankly, to the world, that NATO matters to the United States and it matters to our allies," Kirby told reporters.

"We worked closely with our Polish and German allies to set the stage for these movements, and we appreciate their support," he also said.

He added: "These are not permanent moves. They respond to current conditions. We will adjust our posture as those conditions evolve."

Around 4,500 American troops are already stationed in Poland on a rotating basis.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that Washington's decision to send more troops to Poland, Romania and Germany amid fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine was a symbol of allied unity and a warning to Vladimir Putin against taking any further military action.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine in recent weeks, raising fears in the West that Moscow may be preparing for a new invasion of the country.

Moscow has denied plans for an assault but says it could take unspecified military measures if its security demands are not met, including a promise by NATO never to admit Kyiv, Reuters reported.

Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and then fomented a separatist conflict in that country's eastern Donbas region, leading to a wave of EU and US sanctions against Moscow and Russian officials, Poland's PAP news agency reported.


Source: PAP, Reuters

Click on the audio player above for a report by Radio Poland's Michał Owczarek.