Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine are set to sign an agreement on September 19 to create a joint military brigade, in a move brought forward as a response to Russian incursions into Ukraine.
The plan, which has been doing the rounds since 2009, will be signed in Warsaw on September 19 by the defence ministers of the three countries, according to Ukrainian Radio, citing the Polish presidential press service.
A Polish defence ministry spokesman told Reuters the brigade - which will go by the snappy acronym LITPOLUKRBRIG - will comprise of Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Polish soldiers stationed in their home countries, and will be commanded from Lublin in Poland. The aim of the project is to create a unit that could take part in peacekeeping operations, he added, as well as creating a potential base to build a Nato battle group.
The announcement came just ahead of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's speech in the US Congress where he blasted Moscow and bid for aid - including weapons - from Washington. While the US lower house refused to offer "lethal aid," Poroshenko did walk away with military equipment as part of a $46m package to "bolster Ukraine's security".
The alliance's new rapid-reaction "spearhead" force, meant as a deterrent to Russian aggression, should be up and running in less than a year, Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said on September 18, according to AP.
"Having a forward presence provides a deterrent; a demonstration that if you, Russia, or any other aggressor, cross the border you're not just going to encounter Latvians, or Estonians or Lithuanians or Poles, you're going to encounter Americans, Brits, Germans — in other words you're going to be encountering Nato,” he said. "Backing that up with the spearhead, which means forces that can arrive within a matter of days, adds to the deterrent effect that we would be there in time... to deal with all kind of contingencies."
The Latvian ministry of defence announced on September 18 that the US is set to station tanks and troops in the country. A spokesman said the increased presence of US troops would "bolster the security of the Baltic nations," reported Ria Novosti.
Tim Ash at Standard Bank suggests the acceleration of the plan for LITPOLUKRBRIG, is a "very significant development, and a strong act of support for Ukraine by Poland and Lithuania. This will be one means to arm the Ukrainians, kind of through the backdoor. Brigade level support implies the creation of a fairly significant fighting force, in the thousands." He added: "I doubt that this will go down very well in Moscow.”
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