Tank drills turn Poland into Pentagon’s ‘center of gravity’
US tanks and Polish armored vehicles put on a show of firepower on Monday to mark the arrival of US forces in Poland, part of augmenting the American military presence in the region. The live military demonstration took place near Zagan, a small town in western Poland.
Published: February 2, 2017, 9:51 am
The live military demonstration took place near Zagan, a small town in western Poland. It is not officially a NATO exercise, but the exercise conducted by a large number of NATO countries. The current exercise in Poland was planned before the 2016 election by the Obama administration.
Polish President Andrzej Duda welcomed the soldiers at a base occupied by Soviet forces during the Cold War on Monday. “I believe this is a historic moment,” Duda said. “Thirty years ago, we were forced to accept the Soviet army here. We felt in bondage. We welcome our allies here today with open arms.”
Some 4 000 US soldiers have been deployed as part of troop rotations to Europe. Deputy commander of US European Command, lt.gen Timothy Ray, said the military is operating under the assumption of a long American commitment: “Security in the United States begins with security in Europe,” he said. “We intend to be here for quite some time.”
Maj. Gen. Timothy McGuire, deputy commander of US Land Forces in Europe, told CNN the soldiers will conduct “realistic exercises” in locations across Poland and Europe against Russia.
As FWM reported, US infantry arrived in January to be deployed on Europe’s eastern flank, training with members from the Baltic states, Bulgaria and Romania. The deployment of from Fort Carson, Colorado, signals the first nine-month deployment in a continued tank brigade presence in Europe.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, who has led the US expansion into Poland, “the largest ever U.S. deployment in Poland”, said troops from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were on a mission to deter any potential aggression from Russia.
“Poland will become the center of gravity for U.S. (Army) operations in Europe,” Hodges told Stars and Stripes.“Russian aggression takes many forms: Cyber, misinformation, threatening other countries, Russian snap exercises,” he said, adding that he was confident “Moscow will get the message”.
But in the US the military posture against Russia is being reconsidered with President Donald Trump calling NATO “obsolete”. Meanwhile a mending of US relations with Russia has caused consternation in Poland.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski warned in an interview Friday with Poland’s RMF radio that any warming of the US-Russia relationship should not come at his country’s expense.
While Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo welcomed US troops at a formal ceremony on Saturday, saying it was a “great day” that would help ensure Poland’s security, Russia has criticised the continuous deployments as a threat to Russian security.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, quoted by the Washington Examiner, said that the deployment was a threat to stability: “We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It’s not even a European state,” Peskov said on January 12.
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