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US troops arrive in Poland

Carrying the first US troops to reinforce Poland, Beechcraft C-12 Huron landed in Jasionka near the southeastern Polish city of Rzeszów on Saturday as part of the West’s response to Russia’s disinclination to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine.

Members of the preparatory group and some commanders were in the aircraft, according to a spokesperson for Poland’s 18th Mechanised Division Przemyslaw Lipczyński.

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Although with just a handful of soldiers on board, the plane is just the first in a series of transports that, according to Poland’s Defence Ministry, will amount to some 1,700 US troops from the 82nd Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Their purpose in Poland — to strengthen Nato’s eastern flank.

Initially, there were two planes expected to land in Jasionka on Saturday. However, the second one carrying a more sizeable transport of US soldiers has been rescheduled to Sunday, according to Mr Lipczyński.

“We’re expecting the arrival of soldiers at about 11:30 on Sunday,” the spokesperson said.

TV footage provided an inside scoop into the activities undertaken to temporarily accommodate the soldiers. Short-term lodgings are being prepared at the G2A Arena in Jasionka, with workers building a fence around the premises.

Beechcraft C-12 Huron was not the first US plane that landed in Jasionka in recent days. On Friday, as many as eight equipment and logistics-laden aircraft touched down on Jasionka air base’s tarmac.

Why is the US sending troops to Poland?

The US reinforcements come amidst Russia’s military buildup of over 100,000 troops deployed right next to Ukraine’s border. The military leverage is designed to intimidate NATO into making concessions in Ukraine, in addition to pledging that it will not accept any new eastern members. The Alliance staunchly rejected the Kremlin’s demands.

Although Russia refuted any plans to invade Ukraine, still it continues to menace NATO and the EU in check with its beefed military presence. The Kremlin ambiguously said it could take unspecified military measures should its demands are not met, including a promise by NATO never to admit Kyiv.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden ordered nearly 3,000 additional troops to Poland and Romania to defend Eastern Europe from a plausible spillover from the Ukraine crisis. As announced by the Pentagon, a Stryker squadron of some 1,000 US service members based in the German town of Vilseck will be sent to Romania. The first additional US troops arrived in Germany on Friday.

The new plan does not overwrite the 8,500 troops the Pentagon put on alert last month to deploy to Europe if needed. With a meeting planned for February 16-17, NATO defence ministers are to discuss further reinforcements.

Poland hosts around 4,500 US soldiers, both as part of NATO and under bilateral agreements.

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