German and Polish armies to swap commands of battalions

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 06, 2015 11:53 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German army is to put one of its battalions under Polish command, rapidly scaling up ties with Warsaw at a time of increasing fears in eastern Europe over Russia.

General Bruno Kasdorf told Reuters a Polish battalion would also come under German control, as part of efforts by the two NATO members to boost familiarity with each other's militaries and allow greater cross-border co-operation in future.

It is not yet clear which Polish and German battalions would be affected, but it could be combat units close to the Polish-German border, taking effect by mid-2016.

Russian intervention in Ukraine has left Poland and the Baltic states, all members of the western military alliance, feeling particularly vulnerable.

"Up to now we have had close ties to our French neighbors, a good link with the Dutch and good relations with Poland ... but we want to give these a new quality," Kasdorf said.

Last April NATO agreed a package of measures to reinforce its eastern borders in response to the Ukraine crisis, including more patrols and exercises.

This was followed in September by plans to create a "spearhead" rapid reaction force and pre-positioning supplies and equipment in east European countries so they can be reinforced within days.

"We are already doing a lot this year in Poland, the Baltics and Hungary, to support NATO assurance measures," Kasdorf said.

Some 5,200 German soldiers will exercise in the eastern member states of NATO this year, the highest number of troops ever for unified Germany.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Alexandra Hudson; editing by Andrew Roche)