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U.S. troops to deploy to Poland as NATO expands

| Monday, July 14, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Poland and the United States are preparing to announce the deployment of U.S. ground forces to Poland as part of an expansion of NATO's 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 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel at the Pentagon last week and stopped by The Washington Post on Friday.

Siemoniak said the decision has been made on a political level and that military planners are working out details. There also will 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.

A Western official told The Associated Press on Saturday that the United States is considering deploying about 150 soldiers for military exercises to begin in Poland and Estonia in the next few weeks.

Ground exercises in Poland and Estonia would last for about two weeks, but such exercises would continue on a rotating basis off and on over time, the official said, and other locations in Eastern Europe would be considered. The official was not authorized to discuss the plan by name because it has not been made final and requested anonymity.

Siemoniak said any immediate NATO response to Russian aggression in Ukraine, while important, matters 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 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 Moscow's judgment, under threat.

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