Russia accuses US of 'quietly' bolstering troop strength in Poland in violation of deal with Nato

Moscow said in a statement that a set of US troops were sent to replace another group of soldiers in Poland but the original squadron never left.
Moscow said in a statement that a set of US troops were sent to replace another group of soldiers in Poland but the original squadron never left.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's Defence Ministry on Thursday (Oct 12) accused the US of adding troops in Poland in violation of an agreement between Moscow and Nato, a charge the US embassy in Warsaw denied.

A set of US troops were sent to replace another group of soldiers in Poland but the original squadron never left, Moscow said in a statement which accused the Eastern European nations of "hysteria".

The accusations came as tensions between Russia and Nato soared to their highest since the Cold War.

The US Third Squadron and Second Squadron were due to rotate as joint Russian-Belarusian war games named Zapad 2017 (West 2017) were taking place last month, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

"(But) the Second Squadron arrived in Poland quietly with its military equipment. And, during this time, the military equipment of the Third Squadron did not leave Poland and the Baltics," he added.

The presence of both squadrons violated the 1997 Nato-Russia Founding Act, according to the statement.

Mr Konashenkov said the Zapad military exercises were "accompanied by unprecedented hysteria in European media", singling out newer eastern EU members for accusations of "Russophobia".

"This whole Baltic and Polish hysteria about a 'Russian threat' posed by Zapad 2017 is a fraudulently played information smokescreen part of the Pentagon's operation," the statement said.

"So who is, in fact, preparing for aggression?" Mr Konashenkov asked.

The US embassy in Poland said the Third Squadron had in fact replaced the second, and that there had been no violation of the agreement.

A statement said the presence of American troops was rotational, with the soldiers replacing each other every nine months.

Polish media reported a leaving ceremony for the American soldiers took place on Sept 29 in the southwestern Polish town of Zagan, where they were stationed.

After Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, the US created a European Reassurance Initiative supposed to increase the number of American troops in Europe.