US President Barack Obama says the Pentagon will deploy 1,000 troops to Poland in order to deter what Washington and its allies refer to as “Russian aggression.”
Speaking at a NATO summit in the Polish capital city of Warsaw on Friday, Obama said the US troops will soon arrive in the country, forming one of the US-led security alliance’s four multinational combat battalions on its eastern frontier with Russia.
“Poland will be seeing an increase in NATO and American personnel and in the most modern military equipment,” Obama said, without giving further details.
He added that next year an additional armored brigade will be sent to Europe, setting up their base in Poland.
Ties between the West and Russia have been in tatters since the Crimean Peninsula rejoined Russia in a referendum in March 2014.
The 28-nation organization agreed on Friday to deploy four battalions totaling 3,000 to 4,000 troops in the Baltic States and Poland on a rotating basis to reassure eastern members of its readiness to defend them against any Russian aggression.
Another announcement that is expected from the summit is NATO’s takeover of a US-built missile shield that went active in early May, comprising a network of missile systems in Romania, Turkey and Spain that were designed to deter Russia.
The deployment has drawn anger from Moscow, with Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing firm response to any threat from NATO.
Following the new announcements, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told reporters that Russia “has always been open for dialogue” with the alliance, particularly to curb the “genuine threat” of terrorism.
However, he said, Moscow is seeing animosity building up on its borders. “When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it’s not us who are moving closer to NATO borders.”
Forming new military divisions and improving the combat composition of the troops in the country’s Western Military District — one of the army’s four operational strategic commands — have been part of Russia’s countermeasures so far.
Obama opens up about Brexit
Elsewhere in his remarks, the American head of state criticized the over the top reactions to Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU), arguing against the exaggeration of its impacts on the transatlantic trade deal with Europe.
“The vote in the United Kingdom to leave the EU has created uncertainty about the future of European integration. And unfortunately, this has led some to suggest that the entire edifice of European security and prosperity is crumbling,” Obama said.
“Let me just say, as is often the case in moments of change, this kind of hyperbole is misplaced,” he added, hailing Washington’s relations with the EU as “one of the greatest economic and political achievements of modern times” that “has to be preserved.”
He refrained from addressing in details the future of ties between London and Washington, but wrote in a Financial Times article that “the special relationship between the US and the UK will endure”.