WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- The United States has decided to accelerate the deployment of troops to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania as part of raising the security of the region, Polish and U.S. defense officials said Wednesday.
Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz made the announcement following talks with the commander of U.S. land troops in Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, in Zagan, western Poland. An Armored Brigade Combat Team from Fort Carson, Colorado will be deployed there early next month, while another U.S. force, a battalion, will be deployed April 1 to Orzysz, in the northeast.
Hodges said the troops will arrive in the German port of Bremerhaven on Jan. 6 and will be immediately deployed to Poland, the Baltic states and Romania. Their transfer will be timed and treated as a test of "how fast the force can move from port to field," he said.
"I'm confident in the very powerful signal, the message it will send (that) the United States, along with the rest of NATO, is committed to deterrence," Hodges said.
He said the armored brigade has already moved out of its Colorado base and is loading on ships.
"I'm excited about what my country is doing and I'm excited about continuing to work with our ally, Poland," Hodges said.
In a separate decision, the members of NATO at a July summit in Warsaw approved the deployment of four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia. Germany will lead a multinational battalion in Lithuania, with similar battalions to be led by the United States in Poland, Britain in Estonia and Canada in Latvia.
Poland and the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have been uneasy about increased Russian military operations in the region, especially after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and have requested U.S. and NATO troops' on their soil as a deterrent. The alliance and the U.S. insist the troop presence is not aimed against anyone, but Russia has threatened measures in response.
The U.S. troops had previously been expected in mid- or late January.
"I am very happy that a decision has been taken by the U.S. side for an earlier deployment," Macierewicz said.
He did not say if the accelerated timetable was due to the Jan. 20 inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president. Trump has suggested he would like Europe to rely less on the U.S. for its defense.