Kremlin: permanent US military presence in Poland would harm European security

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov attends a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 27 April 2017. [Sergei Karpukhin/Pool/EPA/EFE]

The Kremlin expressed concern on Monday (28 May) over media reports that Poland has requested a permanent US military presence on its soil, saying NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders undermined stability in Europe.

Warsaw could offer up to $2 billion in funding for such a military presence, according to a Polish Defense Ministry proposal reported by Polish media.

The Onet.pl news portal says Poland is seeking the permanent deployment of a US armored division and is offering up to $2 billion to help build the infrastructure. It says the defense ministry has written to US politicians and the US Congress with details of the proposal.

A government source in Poland confirmed to Reuters such a proposal had been made. The Polish Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Aggressive Russian actions – as seen in Georgia in 2008 and most recently in Ukraine in 2014 to the present – is destructive for international stability and international legal principles,” reads the paper’s introduction.

“As shown in Ukraine, Russia is capable of effectively deploying hybrid warfare through its annexation of Crimea, cyber-attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure, and fuelling separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“Russia is seeking to strengthen its political and economic relations with key European countries at the expense of US national interests.

“An increased permanent presence in Poland will give America the strategic flexibility it needs to confront and deter these threats.”

Earlier this year, Poland signed a €4.08 billion deal to buy a Patriot missile defence system from the US.

It was part of a major investment programme in upgrading the country’s military hardware — two-thirds of its weaponry dates from the Cold War era when it was in the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact.

Asked about the move, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was every country’s sovereign right to take such decisions, but that it would harm the overall atmosphere on the continent.

“When we see the gradual expansion of NATO military structures towards our borders…, this of course in no way creates security and stability on the continent,” Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

“On the contrary, these expansionist actions of course lead to counter-action from the Russian side in order to balance the parity which is violated every time in this way,” Peskov said.

Poland joined NATO in 1999 along with Hungary and the Czech Republic, and since then many other former communist states – including the three Baltic republics bordering Russia – have joined in successive waves, despite Moscow’s strong opposition.

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