US to set up rotational brigade headquarters, new battalion in Poland
By COREY DICKSTEIN AND JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 8, 2016
WARSAW, Poland — The U.S. will establish a new heavy brigade headquarters in Poland to serve as a hub for more soldiers rotating to Europe and add a 1,000-soldier Army battalion, as it takes the lead in bolstering NATO’s military presence along its eastern flank, President Barack Obama announced Friday.
The battalion is one of four NATO will add in eastern Europe where alliance members have called for additional resources to deter Russian aggression in the wake of Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The U.S., Germany, the United Kingdom and Canada will head the multinational battalions.
Obama, speaking Friday on the first day of the NATO summit in Warsaw, said the United States remains committed to aiding in ensuring Poland’s security.
“Poland is going to be seeing an increase in NATO and American personnel and the most modern, capable military equipment, because we will meet our Article 5 obligation to our common defense,” Obama said, referring to the article in the NATO statute that says an attack against one member state will be viewed as an attack on all members. He praised Poland as “one of our most committed and important allies.”
Poland has been the most aggressive of the eastern European allies formerly under Soviet influence in pushing for a stronger NATO presence in the region and has been lobbying for a permanent U.S. military presence in the country.
Polish President Andrzej Duda praised Obama’s decision to add troops to his country.
“America has the strongest armed forces in the world, everyone knows that,” Duda said through a translator. “That’s why we welcome American troops into Poland and why we are also happy a heavy brigade of the U.S. will operate in Poland.”
The deployment of a rotational heavy brigade is part of the Pentagon’s $3.4 billion European Reassurance Initiative and ensures that starting in 2017 there will be a continuous presence of a third Army brigade in Europe. Only two brigades are permanently stationed in Europe — the Italy-based 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Germany-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
Two heavy brigades in Europe were inactivated within the last four years, the second of which withdrew less than a year before Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, when the U.S. viewed Russia in the post-Cold War era as a potential partner. That changed dramatically after Russia annexed Crimea in March 2014.
Along with a brigade’s worth of troops, the Army is sending an additional brigade’s worth of combat ready tanks, artillery and other fighting vehicles.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, and Secretary of State John Kerry, right, look on as President Barack Obama addresses reporters on Friday, July 8, 2016, at the NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland. Obama announced the U.S. will add a battalion of Army soldiers and headquarter a rotational brigade combat team in Poland next year.
COREY DICKSTEIN/STARS AND STRIPES