To Poland we will go
A large NATO army is wasted in far away Afghanistan
when it should be deployed in Eastern Europe.
For decades, NATO has expanded inexorably outward, taking on new members and new missions that have carried it far beyond its original mandate in Western Europe and deep into the former Soviet sphere.
But Russia’s intervention in Ukraine has sent shivers down the spines of Eastern European countries from Estonia in the north to Bulgaria in the south. NATO’s newest members have been left feeling vulnerable and wondering whether the world’s most powerful military alliance is truly committed to their defense.
Concerns have been especially acute in the three Baltic nations that were once part of the Soviet empire and now fear that they could be next on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hit list reports the Washington Post.
NATO has long resisted placing much of a footprint in the Baltics, concerned that doing so would jeopardize ever-precarious cooperation with Moscow.
|NATO countries (in blue) looks to beef up their |
military in Eastern Europe.
|Polish Forces in Afghanistan|
NATO wasted countless billions sending an army to Afghanistan instead
of defending Eastern Europe from Russia.
Now that that cooperation is on life support, NATO announced this week that it plans to substantially boost its air, sea and ground presence in the Baltic states.
After meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said in an interview with Washington Post editors Friday that he expected a plan to dispatch U.S. ground troops to Poland, and likely the Baltics, to be announced next week.
has been the most outspoken, with Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski calling for the alliance to permanently station 10,000 troops in his country.
A Pentagon spokesman said in a statement Friday that the United States is “considering a range of additional measures” 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. All of them will be rotational in nature,” Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Like Ukraine, the three Baltic nations — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — have significant Russian-speaking populations, people who Putin has suggested should, by all rights, be living in Russia. But unlike Ukraine, those three nations joined NATO in 2004.
The decision to increase NATO presence has brought some relief in the lightly defended Baltics, but also questions about why NATO did not act earlier to try to deter Russia with a more robust show of strength on its eastern flank.
“Of course, we always wanted to see a more permanent presence from our NATO allies here. But before, it was not considered so urgent,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in an interview. “Now, the circumstances have changed.”
Paet said that as part of NATO’s renewed commitment to the Baltics, NATO warplanes would, for the first time, regularly police the skies from an Estonian air base. Other measures are still under discussion, he said, including the stationing of U.S. ground forces in his country — a development that Paet said he would welcome.
|US deploys fighter jets in Poland |
The US is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and nearly 300 service personnel to Poland as part of a training exercise in response to the crisis in neighboring Ukraine, the Polish defense ministry confirmed.
The agreement to deploy US military forces in Poland was made between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Poland’s Minister of National Defense Tomasz Siemoniak according to a statement on the official website of the Polish Ministry of National Defense.
"The squadron will number twelve F-16 planes and will transport 300 soldiers," Polish Defense Ministry spokesman, Jacek Sonta, confirmed to AFP. (RT News)