US to send combat troops to Poland
Poland will breathe a little easier because at the very least, American troops in Poland will be an effective trip wire and hedge against Russia making a move to reclaim the former Warsaw Pact country.
Poland and the United States will announce next week the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe in response to events in Ukraine. That was the word from Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, who visited The Post Friday after meeting with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon on Thursday.
Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There will also be intensified cooperation in air defense, special forces, cyberdefense and other areas. Poland will play a leading regional role, “under U.S. patronage,” he said.
But the defense minister also said that any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matter less than a long-term shift in the defense postures of Europe and America. The United States, having announced a “pivot” to Asia, needs to “re-pivot” to Europe, he said, and European countries that have cut back on defense spending need to reverse the trends.
“The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more,” Siemoniak said, speaking through an interpreter. “Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.”
How likely is such a reversal on defense spending? Siemoniak said there was widespread support at a recent meeting of European defense ministers. “Now they’ll go back to their presidents, prime ministers and ministers of finance, and this will stop being easy,” he admitted. “But the impetus is very strong.”
The strongest impetus, he said, is not even Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, but President Vladimir Putin’s bald lies about Russian actions there and his exposition of a new doctrine allowing Russia to intervene in any country where Russian-speaking populations are, in Russia’s judgment, under threat. This poses a potential danger to the Baltic nations, which are members of NATO, and even more to Moldova, Belarus and central Asian nations that are not, he said.
If America continues to slash defense spending, it's hard to see how European countries will increase their own military expenditures. As Afghanistan proved, NATO is a shell of its former self, with most NATO countries sending only token numbers (with some brave exceptions) and then most insisting on a non-combat role for their troops.As far as European security is concerned, only one nation matters - the US. And our allies will fight to the last American to prove it.
A few token deployments are not likely to deter Vladimir Putin from whatever grand design he seeks to implement. But they will give heart to countries like Poland who find themselves on the front line.