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War threat renews military alliance efforts

  • 2014-03-18
  • From wire reports, VILNIUS

Poland's Defense Ministry has announced it will re-launch plans to establish a joint Polish, Ukrainian and Lithuanian military brigade, reports The Telegraph.

The ministry said defense ministers will meet this week to discuss the formation of the brigade that would straddle Nato's eastern border and bring Ukraine's armed forces closer to the Western fold.

Plans for a joint brigade had originally been struck in 2009 but had failed to make significant progress due to foot-dragging by Ukraine's previous government, and difficulties in Polish-Lithuanian relations. But the Ukraine crisis appears to have provided fresh momentum to the organization of the brigade.

"Last week Ukraine's deputy defense minister visited NATO headquarters and returned to the idea of the Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian brigade," said Pawel Kowal, a Polish MEP who, in 2007, was the first to advocate the benefits of forming the multi-national brigade. "Now is the time to not only to refresh the idea, but also realize it," added Kowal. "Regardless of the result of the referendum in Crimea, we have to continue with our commitment."

Given shared historical anxieties over Russian intentions, Poland and Ukraine have, in the past, pursued good military relations. Some 1,600 Ukrainian troops served under the Polish command during the Iraq war, and Ukraine's forces also cooperated with the Poles during the NATO-led peacekeeping operations in Kosovo.

The danger of war breaking out in Poland's eastern neighbor has prompted Warsaw to quicken the pace of reforming and strengthening its armed forces and national defenses. Poland is already committed to a 31 billion euro defense spending program, which makes it one of only five NATO countries to hit the organization's unofficial requirement of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense.

Last week the government announced plans to revamp and strengthen its military reserve. Twelve U.S. F-16s and 300 support personnel have also arrived in Poland with the intention of bolstering the country's air defenses.