Poland Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak confirmed on Sunday that Poland’s government is discussing with the United States the deployment of heavy weapons on Polish territory.
“We are in talks with the US side,” he told the Polish News Agency PAP on Sunday. “This was also the subject of talks during my meeting with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Washington on May 19.”
Siemoniak tweeted that a decision would soon be made regarding storing heavy US army equipment on Polish soil, confirming a report published on Sunday in the New York Times.
"Siemoniak: wkrótce decyzja o magazynach sprzętu wojsk USA w Polsce" - Wiadomości http://t.co/3bK79t7naP
— Tomasz Siemoniak (@TomaszSiemoniak) June 14, 2015
Poland has sought permanent US military presence - in Poland and ex-Warsaw Pact countries that have since joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) - to deter possible Russian aggression in Europe.
“The US is preparing a set of various measures, and among them the placement of heavy weaponry in Poland and other countries will be very important,” Siemoniak said.
“It’s relatively easy to move soldiers. It would be good, however, if the equipment was near the area of the potential threat,” the defence minister said.
NATO defence ministers are meeting in Brussels on June 24 and 25. The potential deployments to NATO countries close to Russia - Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary - are most likely on the agenda.
NATO pledged not to station ground forces permanently in eastern Europe “in the current and foreseeable security environment” when signing a post-cold war strategic cooperation pact with Russia in 1997. It currently makes use of a rapid deployment strategy that supplies Poland and the Baltics with a steady flow of western European and American troops who are not, technically speaking, permanently stationed.
Citing the - now considered obsolete - agreement, Russia has threatened to put more military gear into its European exclave of Kaliningrad should NATO troops maintain a permanent presence in the former Warsaw bloc member states.
The United States has, in the past, refrained from stationing heavy military equipment on states bordering Russia to avoid damaging the positive relationship between the two countries. That relationship, however, has soured since last year.
Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 and is believed to back separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. It accuses the US of overthrowing Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, favoured by Moscow.
Russia has been the subject of economic sanctions by the US and the EU since the start of the conflict in Ukraine. It vehemently denies any involvement and claims that Russians fighting alongside Ukrainian separatists are “volunteers.”