(ANALYSIS) — “American soldiers rolled into Poland on Thursday, fulfilling a dream Poles have had since the fall of communism in 1989 to have U.S. troops on their soil as a deterrent against Russia.”
That’s how the AP begins its report on the first deployment of US soldiers into the central European country, previewed here earlier in the week as “One Of Largest Deployments Since The Cold War“, even as Russia warned that the move represented a threat to its national security, and the Kremlin said “Russia regarded the move as an aggressive step along its borders.”
NATO, however, has ignored Russian concerns and threats of retaliation and as a result soldiers in camouflage with tanks and other vehicles crossed into southwestern Poland on Thursday morning from Germany and headed for Zagan, where they will be based.
While in the past the US and other Western nations have carried out exercises on NATO’s eastern flank, this deployment, which includes around 3,500 U.S. troops and 2,800 tanks, trucks and other military equipment, marks the first-ever continuous deployment to the region by a NATO ally. It also represents a commitment by outgoing President Obama to “protect” a region that became deeply nervous over Russia’s response to the CIA-orchestrated presidential coup in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and the resulting proxy war in east Ukraine.
Two convoys of 20 vehicles were pictured leaving Brueck near Lehnin in Germany today heading to Poland. They spent the night 80km from Berlin. Troops will also deployed to Romania, Bulgaria and across the Baltics.
The Pentagon now plans to keep the full deployment in Europe and immediately replace those returning after their 9-month stays. The US troops will carry out training exercises with NATO forces once there.
As AP adds, the arrival of the US troops will be feted on Saturday in official ceremonies attended by Poland’s prime minister and defense minister.
Despite the Polish celebrations, clouds hung over the historic moment. As the AP puts it, “there are anxieties that the enhanced security could eventually be undermined by the pro-Kremlin views of President-elect Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Russia appears provoked by the deployment of American troops on its doorstep.”
“We perceive it as a threat,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. “These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters. “It’s not even a European state.”
Worries about the permanence of the new U.S. security commitments are rooted in a tragic national history in which Poland has often lost out in deals made over its head by the great powers.