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US to send 1,000 more military personnel to Poland

US foreign policy

US to send 1,000 more military personnel to Poland

Washington says move will help counter Russian aggression in Europe

The US already has 4,500 personnel on rotation in the country © AFP/Getty Images

The US will send 1,000 additional military personnel to Poland after concluding a new defence co-operation agreement with Warsaw, a move Washington said would help counter Russia in Europe.

The increased US presence will include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as infrastructure to support an armoured brigade combat team and combat aviation brigade, according to a statement from Mark Esper, US secretary of defence, on Monday.

“[T]he EDCA [Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement] will enhance deterrence against Russia, strengthen Nato, reassure our allies, and our forward presence in Poland on Nato’s eastern flank will improve our strategic and operational flexibility,” said Mr Esper, describing the deal as an “important milestone for US-Polish relations and our collective transatlantic security”.

Polish president Andrzej Duda has spent several years courting US president Donald Trump, at one point suggesting a base to house US troops could be called “Fort Trump”. The pair agreed in principle to boost troop numbers during talks in 2019, and met most recently in June at the White House for the pair’s 11th meeting, four days ahead of Mr Duda’s re-election. 

Poland’s defence ministry said the agreement — which envisages the additional US presence being based at multiple locations, including Poznan, Powidz, Lubliniec and Zagan — would introduce a “new quality of US military presence in both Poland and the whole region”.

Georgette Mosbacher, US ambassador to Poland, said the agreement would “implement the joint vision of our two presidents to enhance the US military presence in Poland”.

The deal comes after widespread criticism over last week’s announcement that the US would withdraw almost 12,000 troops from Germany and reallocate only a partial number elsewhere in Europe. The move has raised concerns that the US is enfeebling its stance against Russia and fruitlessly “punishing” Berlin for strained relations between German chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Trump.

While Mr Trump has since continued his criticism of Berlin, censuring Germany last week for failing to meet a Nato threshold for defence spending even though many other Nato allies also fall short, the Trump administration has also sought to frame its actions as taking a hard line against Russia. 

In an opinion piece published by the Washington Post on Sunday, Mr Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, claimed Washington was showing “resolve” to Moscow in its attempt to “deter Russian aggression and defend our Nato allies”.

Mr Trump has consistently faced accusations of soft-pedalling on Russia throughout his presidency, including during a two-year investigation into whether Moscow meddled in US elections. 

The additional US military personnel sent to Poland would include US Army troops provided on what Mr Esper described as an “enduring US rotational presence”. The US already has 4,500 personnel on rotation in the country, serving as part of the Nato contingent.

Moscow has said it supports any reduction in US forces stationed in Europe, while warning that redeployment of forces further east would breach promises made under a deal between Nato and Russia. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US Air Force Brigadier General Jessica Meyeraan, a missile defence official at US European Command, said the US-Poland security agreement was “critical” to meet current security threats.

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