Poland’s defense minister, Tomasz Siemoniak, announced Friday that U.S. soldiers will be deployed to the Eastern European country as part of a NATO expansion plan in response to Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Siemoniak said that the U.S. and Poland will formally announce the deployment of troops next week and said that it is a sign that America is shifting its foreign policy priorities from Asia to Europe.
“The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more,” Siemoniak said to WaPo. “Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.”
Siemoniak believes it is not just Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea from Ukraine that is driving this development, but the justification that Russian president Vladimir Putin used to seize the former Ukrainian territory. The policy of intervening in any country where ethnic Russians might be threatened could extend to other countries, such as Estonia, where there is a large Russian population, and tensions run high between them and the dominant ethnic group in the state.
Siemoniak believes that the “re-pivot” to Europe gives NATO a purpose after it winds down its mission in Afghanistan — which was a question that NATO leaders were asking themselves prior to the escalation of tensions with Russia.
“Now we have an answer to that question,” he said to the Post.
Poland joined NATO in 1999 and leaders in the country have been openly critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine — largely owing to a long and troubled relationship with the Eurasian power.