The U.S. has announced that it will send its ground troops to Poland for the first time. The announcement came at a time when it remains to be seen whether the agreements on the Ukrainian crisis reached during the four-party meeting in Geneva on April 17 can be kept. Some experts say that the U.S. is changing its military strategy in Europe after the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia.
Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said in an interview with the Washington Post on Saturday after a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details the next week. He added that the U.S. needed to "re-pivot to Europe" after its focus on Asia.
The U.S. ground forces to be deployed this time are likely to serve as tripwires, which will make the U.S. automatically respond to the provocation of Russia in Eastern Europe. The Washington Post said this is as part of an expansion of NATO presence. Washington has refrained from mentioning the deployment of ground forces as it could prompt Russia.
NATOs top commander Philip M. Breedlove suggested last week moving a roughly 4,500-member American combat brigade from Fort Hood in Texas to Europe, but Washington has reportedly not accepted the proposal.
The U.S. plans to carry out small ground-force exercises, which would involve a company consisting about 150 soldiers in Poland and Estonia for about two weeks. The Washington Post said that the U.S. will continue ground exercises on a rotating basis in other European countries. Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement Friday that American officials are considering a range of additional measures to bolster air, maritime and ground readiness in Europe.
In 2012, the U.S. deployed its air forces to Poland, a former member of the Warsaw Pact, for the first time. Pentagon sent a dozen F-16 fighters and 300 troops to Poland in March this year when the tension was escalating after Russia annexed Crimea. NATO also announced Friday that it would strengthen air policing in three Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Poland.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the deployment is against the 1997 pact between Russia and NATO. The Polish government said, however, that Russia violated the pact first by deploying 40,000 soldiers to the border of Ukraine.
Despite the agreement in Geneva, bloodshed in eastern region of Ukraine continues. Russia 24, a Russian state-run media, said on Sunday that five people died after pro-Russian militants who were running a check point in Slavyansk in the Donetsk region of Ukraine were attacked. It said that three of the dead are pro-Russian militants and the remaining two belong to the group that attacked these people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to take a step back, saying in an interview with a state-run media on Saturday that Russia wants to repair relations with western countries.