WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A new brigade consisting of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian troops should be fully operational in the region by 2017, Poland's Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz said Monday.
Macierewicz spoke in the eastern city of Lublin during a ceremony launching the new force that is to comprise some 4,000 troops and is intended to strengthen the defense of a region concerned about Russia's activity. Defense ministers Juozas Olekas from Lithuania and Stepan Poltorak from Ukraine also took part in the ceremony.
The force is to take part in U.N. peacekeeping missions and will also help Ukraine — which is not a member of NATO — upgrade its armed forces.
Macierewicz stressed it should serve as a deterrent to anyone who might threaten peace in the region.
Poland, which will host a NATO summit in July, and other countries in the region have been concerned for their security ever since Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Warsaw would like the summit to make decisions on the permanent placement of NATO troops in the area, but some western alliance members point to a 1997 agreement with Russia barring that.