Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are set to create a joint military force to stand up against growing threats from Russia after Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski offered his formal approval.
According to Russian news agency TASS, President Komorowski signed a resolution on Monday to form a joint unit of 4,500 servicemen to become fully operational by 2017, with the first military drill planned to take place this autumn.
Monday’s resolution is a culmination of efforts to create the joint force which has been discussed since 2007, and comes after the Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian defence ministers agreed to cooperate militarily last September.
The joint force will work within the framework of combat groups being established by the European Union, which accuses Russia of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine who have been fighting for the independence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic since Ukraine’s former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fled a pro-EU uprising in February 2014.
Yanukovych’s demise was followed by the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia a month later after a legally questionable referendum, leading to heightened tensions between Russia and Western allies in eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltics.
As one of the most outspoken critics of the crisis in Ukraine, Poland has volunteered its services for the training of 50 Ukrainian military personnel to deal with the pro-Russian rebellion.
Amid the ongoing crisis, Poland last week announced plans to purchase Raytheon Co's Patriot missiles from the United States in addition to provisionally selected French Airbus Group helicopters in deals worth an estimated $8 billion.
The arms deal comes after Russian declared plans to place missiles in its Kaliningrad enclave on the Baltic Sea, against which Poland currently has no defences.
Poland, which finds itself on the NATO frontline, also plans to spend $35 billion on modernising its military over the next eight years and has set out plans to purchase a number of helicopters, submarines and armoured personnel carriers.
According to a recent report released by leading Swedish think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Poland increased its defence budget by 20 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year.
With a budget of $9.9 billion designated for the modernization of its military this year, Poland looks set to beat the target of 2 percent of Gross Domestic Product on defence spending, which was set by NATO earlier this year.