UK to send 'battle group' to Poland for exercises amid Ukraine crisis
July 29, 2014
UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond Philip Poland’s Foreign Minister Rados³aw Sikorski, Poland’s Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak
The UK is planning to send more than 1,300 British troops to take part in a forthcoming major NATO exercises in Poland, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak said after a meeting with UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in Warsaw on Monday.
The politicians discussed, among other things, the response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilization of eastern Ukraine ahead of the NATO summit in Newport, Wales in September.
Siemoniak said that Poland's position for September's NATO summit in Wales laid special weight on raising NATO military presence in the Alliance's fringe areas. Commenting the Ukraine crisis, Siemoniak said the conflict "had taken a very bad turn" in recent days and voiced concern over the possibility of "the worst scenarios".
Fallon confirmed the deployment and said some 350 armored and other vehicles would take part in the October manoeuvres, known as Black Eagle, which are part of a series of NATO exercises held to reassure Eastern European allies amid rising tension with Russia over Ukraine.
Next month the UK is also committing troops to the US-led "Exercise Sabre Junction", again taking place in Poland and involving 16 countries.
“It is right that NATO members and partners demonstrate our commitment to the collective security of our allies in Eastern Europe, so I am pleased to confirm our participation in these exercises. In particular, the commitment of a battle group to Exercise Black Eagle shows our sustained and substantial support to NATO’s eastern border,” Fallon said.
Fallon also said that Britain and Poland "stood arm in arm" on the Ukrainian situation and stressed that both countries played a key role in "ensuring NATO's ability to cope with the growing demands of an unpredictable world".
Sikorski said the talks also focused on speeding up decisions on sanctioning Russia in connection with the recent shooting down of a Malaysian passenger airliner over east Ukraine, suspected to be the work of pro-Russian separatists in the region, who reportedly had been supplied by Moscow with the weaponry used to bring down the aircraft.