WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The presidents of Poland and of Germany on Monday visited NATO's easternmost command center, which is being upgraded for quick reaction in the event of a threat to the alliance's eastern flank.
Andrzej Duda and Joachim Gauck stressed the important role that the headquarters of NATO's Multinational Corps Northeast in Szczecin, northwestern Poland, plays at a time of concern for Europe's security.
They met with the center's commanders and troops and visited the main command post and the military barracks that house troops from the U.S. and 24 other nations, including non-NATO countries Finland and Sweden. Formed in 1999, around the time when Poland and other countries of the region joined NATO, the corps plays a deterrent role but can potentially command defensive action.
"This multi-national corps plays an important role in assuring security at a time when politicians and societies alike have concerns as to security in Europe," Gauck said.
Duda said that potential threats could be coming from the "south and the east" — referring to an uncontrolled migrant influx and Russia, respectively — "not to mention the threat of terrorism."
Following Russia's seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, a NATO summit that year decided to raise the corps' readiness to high and to double its force to 400 troops, as a deterrent. It's chiefly made up of land units but also has special forces. The corps' area of responsibility covers Poland, the Baltic states, Slovakia and Hungary and its tasks also include monitoring of the region's security environment and coordinating military operations.
A NATO summit in Warsaw this year decided to send about 4,000 troops to Poland and the Baltic states to reinforce the deterrent power.
Poland's one-year-old conservative government is also taking steps of its own to boost its defense and is putting together a new force, the Territorial Defense, which will number around 50,000 troops in 2019.