2nd Oct 2023

US to station tanks in eastern Europe

  • 'It would be good if the equipment is near the territory where there’s a potential threat' (Photo: 1st BCT, 1st CD)

Poland has confirmed it’s in talks with the US to host heavy military equipment as a deterrent against Russian aggression.

Its defence minister, Tomasz Siemonak, told the PAP news agency on Sunday (14 June): “The US is preparing a package of various actions, including the deployment of heavy equipment in Poland and other countries.”

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“We believe the threat in eastern Europe is so serious, that the alliance [Nato] should draw two conclusions: not just to increase the number of drills, but also to make permanent changes - a presence in the east, infrastructure, plans.”

Janusz Walczak, a defence ministry spokesman, told Polish radio the same day: “We’re ready … to make our military infrastructure available. We won’t build anything specific. We already have the warehouses, they just need to be modified and then the equipment can be stationed there”.

They spoke after the New York Times reported the Pentagon will post tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and artillery to the Baltic states, as well as Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania.

It said, citing anonymous US officials, the hardware is designed to support rapid deployment of 150-man strong companies in each of the Baltic countries and 750-man strong battalions in each of the larger states. It is to be guarded by private contractors.

For his part, Poland's Siemonak added: “It’s quite easy to deploy soldiers, but it would be good if the equipment is near the territory where there’s a potential threat.”

He said that, aside from the new tanks, US defence secetary Ashton Carter, at a meeting in Washington on 19 May, pledged an increased presence of US soldiers in Poland on a “rotational” basis until the end of 2016.

He noted the US is also moving ahead with plans to station parts of a US anti-missile shield in Redzikowo, northern Poland.

He said the US is currently procuring equipment and the facility will be ready next year.

The new US armour comes in reaction to Russia’s covert invasion of Ukraine and a series of Russian provocations in the Baltic region.

Nato leaders last year agreed to create a rapid reaction force of up to 5,000 soldiers to deter the Russian threat.

The warehouses aside, the force is to have six new “command and control centres” in the Baltic states, Bulgaria, Poland and Romania.

There’ll be a new “south-eastern headquarters” in Romania and an existing facility in Szcezcin, Poland, will be expanded to become a “north-eastern headquarters”.

The alliance has also: quadrupled air patrols in the Baltic region; increased troop numbers in Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania; increased its naval presence in the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean seas; and held dozens of drills.

The build-up has drawn complaints from Moscow, which claims it violates the terms of a 1997 Nato-Russia agreement.

The so-called Founding Act says that “in the current and foreseeable security environment” of the late 1990s there should be no “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” in new Nato member states.

But Nato reserved the right to “rely on adequate infrastructure commensurate” with its task of collective defence.

Russia also agreed that: “In this context, reinforcement may take place, when necessary, in the event of defence against a threat of aggression … as well as for exercises”.

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