President Joe Biden said on Wednesday that the US will significantly increase its long-term military presence in Europe, including by establishing its first permanent presence in Poland, to bolster regional security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the opening of the alliance’s annual leadership summit in Madrid, Biden said that “NATO is strong and united” and that the steps to be taken during the meeting are “our collective strength will further increase”.
The White House said Biden’s pledges mean the US will maintain a 100,000 troop presence in Europe in the “near future,” an increase of 20,000 from the level before the war in Ukraine began.
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In addition to the new base of a US military garrison in Poland, Biden also said the US is sending two additional F-35 fighter jet squadrons to the UK and more air defense and other capabilities to Germany and Italy.
“Today I announce that the United States will bolster our forces in Europe and respond to the changing security environment and strengthen our collective security,” he said.
Stoltenberg, who earlier Wednesday said the alliance faced its greatest challenge since World War II over Russian aggression against Ukraine, welcomed Biden’s announcement as the summit began.
“This really shows your decisive leadership and strength in the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said, thanking Biden for “you and the United States’ continued support for Ukraine.”
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The more muscular US presence in Europe is bolstered by beefed-up defense commitments from NATO allies announced at the summit. It is a far cry from its stance during the Cold War, when an average of some 300,000 US troops were stationed in the region.
Biden said the US will permanently station the US Army V Corps Front Command in Poland, a move he says would strengthen US-NATO interoperability across the alliance’s eastern flank. The decision marks the first permanent base of US troops on NATO’s eastern edge. Biden added that the US is also increasing its rotational deployment of troops to Romania and the Baltic region.
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Celeste Wallander, a US assistant defense secretary for international affairs, told reporters that a permanent presence in Poland will be key to helping NATO navigate the changed security environment in Europe as a result of the Russian invasion. The US provides most of NATO’s military power.
US officials stressed that the permanent base only applied to headquarters units, not combat troops, and was therefore in line with a 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia in which the alliance agreed not to base combat troops permanently in Eastern Europe because it focused on building more constructive ties with the post-Cold War environment.
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Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Poland’s state news agency PAP that the decision to add a US command structure was a “manifestation of increasingly close cooperation between the US and Poland” and gave NATO allies a frontline insight. would give in to the Russian threat.
The combat units Biden is sending to Romania and the Baltic region will be deployed on a rotating basis, rather than permanently, to continue to comply with that agreement.
“There has been no communication with Moscow about these changes, nor is there any obligation to do so,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for Biden’s National Security Council.
Biden announced Tuesday after arriving for the summit that the US would base two additional destroyers at its naval base in Rota, Spain, bringing the total number to six.
Biden predicted this week’s meetings would set up a “history summit” as leaders approve a new strategic framework, announce a series of steps to increase defense spending and capabilities, and pave the way for historically neutral Finland and Sweden. to join NATO.
Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin thought NATO members would splinter after he invaded Ukraine, but got the opposite answer instead.
“Putin was looking for the Finlandization of Europe,” Biden said. ‘You get the NATOization of Europe. And that’s exactly what he didn’t want, but exactly what needs to be done to ensure security for Europe.”
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Turkey, the last remaining party to approve the Nordic countries’ accession to NATO, reached an agreement late Tuesday on the eve of the summit to support them in joining the 30-country alliance.
While the White House said the US was not a direct party to the negotiations, a senior administration official said Biden met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday to encourage him to pave the way for Sweden and Finland to join. The two leaders will meet Wednesday afternoon to discuss other issues, the White House said.
Biden also sat down on Wednesday with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who attend the NATO summit as the alliance looks to strengthen its ties in the Indo-Pacific region and address China’s challenges.
The three leaders discussed North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, which Biden said the three found “deeply disturbing”.
Biden said “our trilateral cooperation is essential in my view” and said the meeting was an opportunity for leaders to coordinate a shared response as US officials say the isolated country could conduct another nuclear test soon.
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