US Sending Troops to Poland Amid Tensions Over Russia

Saturday, 19 Apr 2014 01:44 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Obama administration is sending ground troops to Poland in response to Russia's moves in Ukraine, Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, tells The Washington Post.

The move, he said, was agreed to as part of an expansion of the NATO presence in the region.

The New York Times, meanwhile, said the troops would participate in small exercises in Estonia as well as Poland.

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The Poland exercise, which is to be announced next week, involves one U.S. Army company —  about 150 soldiers — and would last about two weeks. The Estonia exercise is similar, said a Western official who declined to be identified, the Times reports.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a joint news conference with Siemoniak Thursday that there is "an entire range of possibilities and measures that are being considered. "Rotational basis of training and exercises are always part of that.”

The Army exercise is far short of what Poland Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski suggested earlier this month, when he said he wants NATO to deploy two combat brigades with as many as 5,000 troops.

NATO’s top military commander, Gen. Philip M. Breedlove,  gave alliance members several options for strengthening its position earlier this month.

"Essentially what we are looking at is a package of land, air and maritime measures that would build assurance for our easternmost allies," Breedlove said.

Meanwhile, the United States has sent 12 F-16 fighter jets and 200 support personnel to Poland, and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance plans more air patrols and ships for the Baltic region.

Rasmussen said there is a possibility for even more deployments in upcoming weeks. In addition, NATO officials say that several member nations, along with the United States, are offering to provide ground troops to Eastern European members throughout the end of the year.

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