A military base in Poland could soon be repurposed to support NATO in its mission to reassure eastern European allies of its oversight amid the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
NATO’s top commander in Europe, Air Force Gen. Philip Breedlove, told a briefing in Naples this week that he plans to recommend “having capability in the forward area — preposition supplies, preposition capabilities, and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow on forces.”
“How we man that in a rotational, or non-permanent, basis is what are we looking at now to propose in NATO, and we will be working on that with the [North Atlantic Council]. It needs to be all of NATO involved in this,” Breedlove said.
U.S. European Command spokesman Col. Martin Downie said in an email to Air Force Times that Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe is discussing options to repurpose an existing headquarters “to serve as an Article 5 focused rapid response.” Multinational Corps Northeast, in Szczecin, Poland, is also an option, he said.
Downie said more will be discussed at a September summit in Newport, Wales.
The Times (London) reported that Ukraine “is expected to be top of the agenda, along with the need for members to increase defence spending.”
The Times also reported that while the British have aided in air policing missions, Italy, Germany and France, remain cautious about “agreeing to tougher action.” More will be discussed in September, it said.
The move for a fully functioning headquarters due east would be intended to assure Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia of NATO commitment in light of recent events occurring in eastern Ukraine.
The border along Russia and Ukraine, along with the eastern region of Ukraine, have been plagued with fighting between the Ukrainian military and separatist insurgents for months, with the most recent crisis resulting in two downed Su-25 Ukrainian military aircraft on July 23. Six days earlier, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 on board.
The U.S. has pledged billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine since April, and has participated in various exercises in eastern European regions to assure NATO allies of its commitment.
Four joint combat training exercises – BALTOPS2014, Eagle Talon, Av-Det Rotation 14-3, and Saber Strike 2014 – all took place in Poland and the Baltic states in June, involving members from the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force.
The U.S. also in June sent two B-2 stealth bombers for military exercises and three B-52 Stratofortresses to RAF Fairford, England.