U.S. Troops Headed To Poland, Estonia In Response To Ukraine Tension

In response to the escalating tension in Ukraine, the U.S. will increase its military presence in Eastern Europe in an attempt to reassure NATO allies of its commitment to the region’s sovereignty. The Obama administration will send troops to Poland and Estonia for military exercises, and is expected to announce the plans as early as next week. Roughly 150 troops will be deployed to each country, and they’ll remain there for around two weeks.

“The idea until recently was that there were no more threats in Europe and no need for a U.S. presence in Europe any more,” Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said on Sunday after meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “Events show that what is needed is a re-pivot, and that Europe was safe and secure because America was in Europe.”

The news comes the same day as a fragile “Easter truce” between Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine was shattered by a gunfight that left three people dead. The catalyst for the incident, which broke out at a checkpoint armed by a pro-Russian contingent, is unclear; naturally, both sides blamed one another for starting it.

Holding ground exercises is a time-honored way for a country to flex its military might in a region without actively provoking violence. Since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the U.S. has already sent military aid to Poland, including 12 F-16 fighter jets and 200 support personnel. While the additional troops are only expected to stay for two weeks, it’s possible that they’ll be replaced with different troops on a rotational basis, Hagel remarked at a press conference Thursday.