MADRID (AP) – U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that the United States will significantly increase its long-term military presence in Europe, including establishing its first permanent presence in Poland, to strengthen regional security after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“NATO is strong and united,” Biden said during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the opening of NATO’s annual leaders summit in Madrid, and the measures to be taken during the meeting will “further strengthen it. Our collective strength”. The White House said Biden’s pledge meant the U.S. would maintain a 100,000-strong military presence in Europe “for the foreseeable future”, up 20,000 from pre-war levels in Ukraine.
Biden first announced the permanent U.S. military base in Poland while attending the summit. He also said the U.S. would send two additional squadrons of F-35 fighter jets to Britain and would send more air defense and other capabilities to Germany and Italy.
“Today I am announcing that the United States will strengthen our force posture in Europe to address the changing security environment and strengthen our collective security,” he said.
“It really shows your decisive leadership and strength in the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said, thanking Biden for “you and the United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine.”
Biden said the U.S. would permanently station the U.S. Army’s Fifth Army forward command in Poland, a move he said would enhance U.S.-NATO interoperability on the alliance’s eastern flank. The move marks the first time that U.S. troops are permanently stationed on NATO’s eastern fringes. Biden added that the U.S. was also stepping up its rotational deployment of troops to Romania and the Baltics.
Celeste Wallander, the assistant secretary of defense for international affairs, told reporters that having a long-term presence in Poland will be key to helping NATO navigate changes in the European security environment caused by a Russian invasion. The United States provides most of NATO’s military power.
U.S. officials stress that the permanent presence applies only to headquarters units, not combat units, and is therefore in line with a 1997 agreement between NATO and Russia, in which NATO agreed not to permanently station combat units in Eastern Europe because NATO was designed to be established in a post-Cold War environment more constructive relationships.
Poland’s deputy foreign minister, Pavel Jablonski, told the Polish state news agency that the decision to increase the U.S. command structure is “a manifestation of an increasingly close cooperation between the United States and Poland” and will give NATO allies a front line against the Russian threat insight.
Biden’s combat troops to Romania and the Baltics are deployed on a rotational basis rather than on permanent assignments to maintain compliance with the agreement.
“There has been no communication with Moscow about these changes and no request to do so,” said John Kirby, spokesman for Biden’s National Security Council.
Biden announced Tuesday after arriving at the summit that the U.S. would deploy two more destroyers at its naval base in Rota, Spain, bringing the total to six.
Biden predicts this week’s meeting will be a “history-making summit” as leaders approve a new strategic framework, announce a slew of measures to boost defense spending and capabilities, and provide support for historically neutral Finland and Sweden. Join NATO to clear the way.