Ukraine Crisis: Poland Calls for 10,000 NATO Troops on its Territory

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and Secretary of State John KerryFrom Financial Times:  The violation of Kiev’s security guarantees by Russia’s invasion of Crimea and the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders has prompted Warsaw to ask for a deployment of two heavy brigades of Nato troops to Poland.

“We know from history that guarantees can be empty. The guarantees of serious countries about Ukraine’s territorial integrity also turned out to be guarantees of doubtful quality,” Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, said on Tuesday. “We want Poland to be defended by the military, not only by words written in a treaty.”

Ukraine’s territorial integrity was supposedly assured by a 1994 agreement signed in Budapest by Russia, the UK and the US in return for Ukraine giving up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons stockpile.

Poland has had a bruising experience with international guarantees. In 1939, Britain and France declared war but did not put their words into action by starting to fight Germany after it invaded Poland. In 1945 the great powers handed eastern Poland over to the Soviet Union and left the rest of the country under Soviet control.

Mr Tusk was responding to an earlier comment by Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, who spoke in Germany saying that stationing two brigades – or as many as 10,000 soldiers – to Poland “would fully satisfy us”.

Poland joined the Atlantic alliance in 1999. However, in order to contain Russia’s displeasure at Nato’s expansion, the US did not permanently station troops in Poland and the other former Soviet bloc nations joining the alliance.

Warsaw has been pushing for a US base on Poland since then, worried that the Nato treaty alone does not provide enough of a security guarantee in the event of a threat from Russia.

“There is a question of opinion if that what Russia has done to Ukraine changes that intention, but we would still be happy if two heavy brigades came to us,” Mr Sikorski said.

From New York Times:  The alliance has not, however, committed to the continuous deployment of ground forces on the territory of Eastern European members, a form of assurance Eastern European officials would welcome.

“What the Baltic States want is an allied presence in the form of boots on the ground,” Lauri Lepik, Estonia’s ambassador to NATO, said in an interview.

After meeting with his German and French counterparts in Weimar, Germany, on Tuesday, Radoslaw Sikorski, Poland’s foreign minister, told reporters his country wanted the alliance to deploy two combat brigades with as many as 5,000 troops each in Poland.

Allied diplomats said that Mr. Sikorski did not propose such an sizable deployment in the closed-door meetings on Tuesday. Still, Poland’s prime minister, Donald Tusk, indicated that the steps the alliance had taken so far fell short of what some Eastern European diplomats said they had wanted to demonstrate the alliance’s commitment to their security.

“We are gaining something step by step, but the pace of NATO increasing its military presence for sure could be faster,” Mr. Tusk said in a news conference in Warsaw, adding that the result was unsatisfactory.

From Telegraph:  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. However, Germany and other Nato members are wary of causing still more tension with Russia by sending forces to its frontiers.

No, we don’t need any Nato troops on the border with Russia,” said Frans Timmermans, the Dutch foreign minister in response to the Polish proposal.

Image: Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski and Secretary of State John Kerry (photo: NATO)