General Ben Hodges, the top U.S. Army commander in Europe, made it plain that America’s massive deployment of tanks and troops to Poland is “not just a training exercise.”
NBC News describes the deployment of 87 tanks, 144 armored vehicles, and 3,500 troops “the biggest U.S. deployment in Europe since the end of the Cold War.” General Hodges said it was the “largest ever U.S. deployment in Poland.”
CNN adds that eight allied warships are heading for the Black Sea for an exercise off the coast of Romania, in response to Russia’s militarization of Crimea. (The term “allied” was used in the report because it is not officially a NATO exercise; it just happens to be an exercise conducted by a large number of NATO countries).
The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks used in the exercise “will be transported to the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, where they will remain until a new North Atlantic Treaty Organization deterrent force is operational in the spring.”
Hodges attended a live-fire exercise with Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, and a number of Polish leaders who have long desired a strong American presence to counter Russian ambitions. Hodges was blunt about Russia being the reason for his presence.
“Russian aggression takes many forms: Cyber, misinformation, threatening other countries, Russian snap exercises,” he said, adding that he was confident “Moscow will get the message.”
General Hodges will be pleased to know Moscow did indeed get the message, as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the Poland deployment as provocative and a “security threat.”
“We perceive it as a threat. These actions threaten our interests, our security. Especially as it concerns a third party building up its military presence near our borders. It’s not even a European state,” Peksov said on January 12, referring to the American forces gathering for deployment to Poland, as quoted by the Washington Examiner.
Just about every news article on the arrival of the “Iron Brigade” in Poland mentions European anxiety over President Trump’s criticism of NATO as “obsolete.” The current exercise in Poland, which was planned long before the 2016 election, is being portrayed as an effort to reassure Europe, as well as a warning to Moscow.
For example, the Wall Street Journal quotes Lt. General Tim Ray, deputy head of U.S. European Command, declaring that “our commitment to defense is rock-solid, and we must maintain the territorial integrity of our alliance and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous, and at peace.”
This message also seems to have been received, as the Washington Examiner quotes Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz declaring, “Today I know that Poland will not be threatened. God bless American President Trump.”
“God bless Poland, God bless America, God bless American soldiers,” said President Duda, quoted by the Associated Press.