First troops land in Poland as US beefs up Baltic presence
The first American troops arrived in Poland Wednesday, after Washington said it was sending a force of 600 to the Baltic states as the crisis over Ukraine deepens.
Some 150 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade touched down early afternoon in Swidwin, in the northeast of the country, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
The troops, who are usually based in Vicenza, Italy, arrived at the base on two Hercules transport planes.
A further 450 US troops will be deployed in the next few days in Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia, following Washington’s announcement on Tuesday that it would increase its presence in the region to reassure its NATO “allies and partners”.
US troops are due to carry out military exercises in the region for the rest of the year.
The US has pulled no punches in describing the purpose of the mission, with Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby calling the deployment a “message to Moscow” that Washington takes its obligations in Europe “very, very seriously”.
Kirby said the exercises are “bilateral” US operations and not NATO exercises, although he said there was no reluctance by other alliance members to send ground troops to countries bordering Russia.