Polish demand for thousands of troops splits NATO alliance?
PR dla Zagranicy
The Dutch foreign minister poured cold water on a Polish demand for "two heavy brigades" to be stationed by NATO in Poland, at a meeting of alliance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.
Left to right: Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, NATO Secretary and General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Dutch Foreign minister Frans Timmermans talk at the start of a Nato-Ukriane Foreign ministers council in Brussels, Belgium, 01 April: photo - EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET
Poland's Radoslaw Sikorski said that he would be "happy" if "two heavy brigades" - the equivalent of around 10,000 troops - were stationed by NATO in Poland after the annexation of Crimea, as states bordering Russia push for a stronger presence by NATO in the region.
"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 and a training facility," Sikorski said, adding that "all member states should have the same level of security".
But Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans is quoted by the UK's Daily Telegraph as saying: "No, we don't need any NATO troops on the border with Russia," suggesting that some alliance states do not want to provoke Russia by placing brigades and troop units close to its border.
Poland has a long border with Ukraine and borders Russia through the Kaliningrad enclave to the north of the country.
Security for all
Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in Brussels, however, that, "I think I speak not only of the view of Poland's authorities but also a large part of the population when I say that we would like a larger, constant allied presence on our territory, to fulfill what has been our aspiration for a long time: that all NATO members have the same sense of security and the same level of safety," the Polish Press Agency quotes him as saying.
Sikorski said that exercises by Polish and US troops and aircraft - the United States sent 12 F-16s to Poland's airbase in Lask this March - should become "more internationalized".
A NATO official briefed journalists off the record after the meeting of foreign ministers at the NATO HQ in Brussels on Tuesday night, confirming that the alliance had agreed to suspend "all practical civilian and military co-operation" with Russia, the Associated Press reports.
The ministers also agreed "possible deployment and reinforcement of military assets in eastern NATO members", though this is thought to refer specifically to ex-Soviet states Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova.
NATO is also reviewing "crisis response plans" the military official said. (pg)