UKRAINE CRISIS: POLAND ASKS NATO TO STATION 10,000 TROOPS ON ITS TERRITORY

Daily Telegraph, London, on April 2, 2014, reported that Poland asked Nato to station 10,000 troops on its territory on Tuesday as a visible demonstration of the Alliance’s resolve to defend all its members after Russia’s seizure of Crimea. Excerpts below:

Nato foreign ministers met in Brussels to consider requests for soldiers to be deployed in Poland and the Baltic States, all of which share borders with Russia.

Nato generals and admirals have been ordered to devise ways to better protect alliance members that feel threatened by Russia, and “all practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has massed about 40,000 troops near Ukraine’s eastern frontier, giving himself the option of seizing more of his neighbour’s territory.

Meanwhile, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Nato secretary general, said he could not “confirm that Russia is withdrawing its troops” and warned of the dangers posed by a “massive military build-up”.

Against this background, Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, asked for “two heavy brigades” of armoured infantry, with about 5,000 troops each, to be stationed in his country. Poland has a 144-mile border with Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

“It is very important that all members should enjoy the same level of security,” said Mr Sikorski. “Poland has been a member of Nato for 15 years now – and so far the only permanent military institution that we have is a conference centre, training facility. We would welcome a prominent, major presence.”

Donald Tusk, the Polish prime minister, has expressed frustration over Nato’s reluctance to deploy troops in his country in breach, say diplomats, of promises made as long ago as 1997. “We are gaining something step by step, but the pace of Nato increasing its military presence could be faster,” said Mr Tusk.

Nato is expected to make further announcements on the deployment of military “assets” in the coming weeks. This might include sending troops and warships to Eastern Europe and the Baltic.

America is expected to send another 600 personnel to Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase on the Black Sea coast of Romania and said it was also likely to send a warship to the Black Sea.

A Nato “restricted” document, seen by Germany’s Der Spiegel, singles out Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova as three countries – all former Soviet republics – that might benefit from increased Western military support.

The seven-page document said they would be encouraged to participate in Nato’s “Smart Defence” programme, which involves buying specific weapons and taking part in joint exercises. The document held out the long term prospect of eventual Nato membership for the three countries, but noted that opinions differed widely on this question.

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