Poland welcomes thousands of Nato troops, tanks and advanced weapons

Polish leaders rejoice as Western forces roll into their country, in an eerie echo of cold war Europe

The South China Post, 14 January, 2017

Polish authorities and ordinary Poles welcomed on Saturday US troops who arrived this week as part of an unprecedented deployment to Nato’s eastern flank aimed at deterring Russia.

“Welcome to Poland,” Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told US troops in Zagan, the Polish town on the German border where the brigade will be headquartered, adding “we hope you feel at home”.

“The presence of American soldiers in Poland is another step in our strategy to ensure safety and security for Poland and the region,” she added.

Hailing from Fort Carson, Colorado, the so-called Iron Brigade comprising some 3,500 soldiers and heavy equipment will also be deployed in Nato partners Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary on a rotational basis.

It is part of the Pentagon’s “Atlantic Resolve” operation [far from The Atlantic] aimed at countering security concerns said to be triggered on Nato’s eastern flank by Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

“This is America’s most capable fighting force: a combat-ready, highly trained US armoured brigade, with our most advanced equipment and weaponry,” US ambassador to Poland Paul James said at the ceremonies, also attended by hundreds of Zagan residents.

“This force embodies America’s iron-clad commitment to honour our Nato treaty obligation to defend our Nato allies.”

The US troops and tanks began streaming into Poland Thursday as part of one of the largest deployments of US forces in Europe since the cold war, an operation that Russia angrily branded a security “threat”.

The brigade’s deployment, ordered by the outgoing Obama administration, comes a week ahead of the inauguration of US president-elect Donald Trump, who has suggested his Republican administration will seek to ease tensions with the Kremlin.

Poland on Friday told Trump that any improvement in Washington’s ties with Moscow cannot come at the cost of harming Warsaw.

According to Poland’s Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz, a total of 7,000 US and Nato troops will be stationed in his country in the coming years.

The defence ministry held “Safe Poland” picnics Saturday in cities across the country, allowing average Poles to meet with Polish and newly deployed US troops, view military hardware and eat typical Polish army food including pea soup with ham.

Hundreds of residents attended the official welcome ceremonies in Zagan.

“The deployment is necessary and it’s great that they’re here. We can feel the support of our allies,” said one Zagan resident.

Fellow Zagan resident Jan said he was not convinced the US deployment was absolutely necessary, but chuckled that “it would be good if they scare the Russians a little, because they’re out of control”.

Freshly-arrived US military policeman Peter Gomez said he felt “very welcome” as he posed for selfies with Zagan residents.

“I’m surprised actually, people are very excited to see us.”
Tensions between Russia and the West have escalated over the past two years, triggered by Russia’s actions in Ukraine and its military campaign in Syria since late 2015.

Last summer, Nato leaders endorsed plans to rotate troops into Poland and the three Baltic states to reassure them they would not be left in the lurch if Russia was tempted to repeat its Ukraine intervention.

Iron Brigade Fires First Rounds in Poland

USArmyEurope 18 Jan 2017

1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, "Iron Brigade" fires rounds from M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A2 Main Battle Tanks during the first Live Fire Accuracy Screening Tests at Presidential Range in Swietozow, Poland, January 16, 2017. The arrival of 3rd Arm. Bde. Cmbt. Tm., 4th Inf. Div., marks the start of back-to-back rotations of armored brigades in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve. The vehicles and equipment, totaling more than 2,700 pieces, were shipped to Poland for certification before being deployed across Europe for use in training with partner nations. This rotation will enhance deterrence capabilities in the region, improve the U.S. ability to respond to potential crises and defend allies and partners in the European community. U.S. forces will focus on strengthening capabilities and sustaining readiness through bilateral and multinational training and exercises.

(Video by Sgt. Jacob Holmes, 24th Press Camp Headquarters)



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