Poland welcomes increased British military presence

AP News
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Posted: Jan 22, 2016 10:49 AM

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish and British defense officials say there are plans for a stronger British military presence in Poland to reassure members on NATO's eastern flank concerned about Russia's resurgence.

But Warsaw and London are giving mixed messages on the exact nature of Britain's involvement.

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said in a broadcast late Thursday that there will be a "permanent presence" of some 1,000 British troops in Poland starting next year.

But Britain's Ministry of Defense said Friday that Britain will send 1,000 troops to exercises in Poland this year and 1,000 to join a Polish-led NATO high-readiness task force in 2020. The task force will be led by a different NATO country every year, so the British commitment to Poland would just be for 2020.

Macierewicz's comments came after he held talks in Edinburgh with British Defense Minister Michael Fallon and the two declared their cooperation in strengthening NATO's eastern flank.

Poland, a former Soviet satellite state, has been seeking a greater presence of NATO troops on its soil in light of Russian actions in Ukraine, and hopes to achieve new commitments at a NATO summit in Warsaw in July.

Fallon, in an interview with Polish state media Wednesday, said Britain plans to increase the number of troops it sends regularly to Poland.

"We are looking at a more persistent presence in Poland, so there is almost a continuous rotation of British army units in Poland and visits by our ships," Mallon said.

Attempts by the AP to get further details Friday from the Polish Defense Ministry were unsuccessful.

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Jill Lawless in London contributed.