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Nato summit: US says it will deploy 1,000 extra troops to Poland

Barack Obama has announced the deployment of 1,000 more US troops to Poland to bolster Nato’s eastern flank, as he said US-European solidarity would not be affected by Brexit.

The US president made the announcement at a Nato summit in Warsaw that he described as the “most important moment” for the alliance since the end of the cold war.

At the summit, Nato and the EU issued their first joint declaration on security cooperation, pledging to work together particularly in the fields of hybrid warfare and cyberwarfare, as well as joint maritime operations to prevent illegal migration.

A Nato official said the UK’s vote to leave the EU had “given extra energy to the process that led to the agreement,” which was intended to counter perceptions that western cohesion was under threat. To that end, the Warsaw summit would mark a stepping up of Nato cooperation with Sweden and Finland, neither of which are members, the official said.

“There is no automaticity to our cooperation, but we are putting in place arrangements so they can cooperate with us as much as they want to and we are hoping to do more,” they added.

The US troops will constitute one of Nato’s four multinational combat battalions in eastern Europe intended to reassure the region against the threat of Russian encroachment. The UK is sending 500 soldiers for a battalion based in Estonia, and Canada and Germany will lead two more in Lithuania and Latvia.

Next year, Obama said, a US armoured brigade would also be deployed in Europe with a base in Poland.

The Warsaw summit is expected to announced that a US-built missile defence shield based in Romania, Turkey and Spain is initially operational and under Nato command.

They insist that the defence system is intended to counter a missile threat from Iran and Syria, not to blunt Russia’s deterrent. But analysts warn that there is a risk of Russia overreacting to Nato’s moves, fuelling escalation on the latter’s tense eastern border.

Differing views of Russia were evident at the summit. Poland’s foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, said: “We have to reject any type of wishful thinking with regard to a pragmatic cooperation with Russia as long as it keeps on invading its neighbours.”

Ben Rhodes, the deputy US national security advisor, rejected suggestions the new deployments were escalatory. “What we are demonstrating is that if Russia continues this pattern of aggressive behaviour, there will be a response and there will be a greater presence in eastern Europe,” Rhodes told journalists. “We will not be in any way deterred from our commitments by anything Russia says or does.”

The French president, François Hollande, insisted that Russia should not be seen as a threat, but a partner. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, insisted that Russia “has always been open for dialogue” with Nato, especially to fight the “genuine threat” of terrorism.

“Russia is not looking [for an enemy] but it actually sees it happening,” Peskov told reporters in Moscow. “When Nato soldiers march along our border and Nato jets fly by, it’s not us who are moving closer to Nato borders.”

The document annoyed the US and Canada, which are wary of Europe duplicating Nato military structures.

Steinmeier had already caused consternation among his Nato counterparts by cautioning against “loud sabre-rattling and shrill war cries” directed at Moscow, referring to the latest military deployments on the alliance’s eastern flank as “symbolic tank parades”.

Lukasz Kulesa, a research director at the European Leadership Network, predicted that Russia’s reaction to the summit would most probably be symbolic, repackaging long-planned military upgrades as a “robust response”.

“However, things can get much worse, as Russia can make two mistakes while interpreting the results of Warsaw. The first mistake would be to read too much into the summit outcome and assume that the alliance is gearing up for a confrontation,” Kulesa said. The second possible mistake is that Moscow could take it too lightly “and conclude that Nato’s unity on Russia and deterrence resolve is rather shallow, and may be broken if more pressure is applied”. Either miscalculation could be destabilising, he argued.

Klich said: “I don’t have any doubt that Russia will use this little military presence of the US and other Nato states as one of its arguments to raise the level of tension with the alliance.” However, he argued that if Nato did not strengthen its eastern flank in response to Russian actions in Ukraine “it would be a puppet, not a tiger”.


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