More US troops have landed in southeastern Poland near the border with Ukraine as part of efforts to reinforce NATO’s military buildup in eastern Europe.
A US Army Boeing C-17 Globemaster plane brought a few dozen troops and vehicles late on Sunday, led by Maj. Gen. Christopher Donahue, who was the last US soldier to leave Afghanistan on August 30.
The US deployment came as Ukraine plays down Western speculations of a potential Russian invasion of the country.
More infantry troops of the 82nd Airborne Division are expected to arrive at the Rzeszow-Jasionka airport, 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Poland’s border with Ukraine, according to US media reports.
“Our national contribution here in Poland shows our solidarity with all of our allies here in Europe and, obviously, during this period of uncertainty, we know that we are stronger together,” Donahue said at the airport.
On US troops to Europe, let’s get a grip. There are 130,000 Russian troops near Ukraine. US is sending 1,700 new troops to Romania & 1,000 Germany-based ones to Poland—on a temporary basis. For comparison, 20,000 Americans were involved in the Trident Juncture exercise in 2018.— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) February 5, 2022
President Joe Biden on Wednesday ordered the deployment of 3,000 troops to Poland, Romania and Germany, in which Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said was meant to send a “strong signal” to Putin “and frankly, to the world, that NATO matters to the United States and it matters to our allies.”
NATO’s eastern member Poland borders Russia and Ukraine while Romania borders Ukraine.
Washington has already placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to prepare for deployment in eastern Europe amid rising tensions with Moscow.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak welcomed the move, saying “deterrence and solidarity are the best response to Moscow’s aggressive policy.”
Moscow was quick to blast the announcement, urging Washington to stop escalating tensions.
“It's obvious that these are not steps aimed at de-escalating tensions, but on the contrary they are actions that lead to increasing tension,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
“We constantly call on our American counterparts to stop aggravating tensions on the European continent. Unfortunately, the Americans continue to do so,” he added.
Western powers accuse Russia of amassing troops near the Ukrainian border to invade the country. Moscow rejects the allegations and says the deployments are defensive in nature.
Kremlin officials have accused the West of Russiophobia, saying it has no right to lecture Moscow on how to act after its eastward expansion and sowing seeds of chaos and mayhem in Iraq and Syria.
Russia has repeatedly reiterated that the expansion of NATO military infrastructure in Ukraine is a red line for Moscow and that any future expansion must exclude Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.