A small plane carrying what a Polish military source said were U.S. chain of command personnel landed in the morning at Rzeszow-Jasionka airport as preparations continued at the base, which is near Poland’s border with Ukraine, according to Reuters.
TV footage showed temporary accommodation being prepared at the G2A Arena in the nearby town of Jasionka, while workers could be seen building a fence around the venue.
“As announced, the first elements of the brigade battle group from the 82nd Airborne Division of the United States Army have arrived in Poland,” a Polish military spokesman said.
On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden ordered nearly 3,000 extra troops to Poland and Romania to shield Eastern Europe from a potential spillover from the Ukraine crisis.
About 1,700 service members, mainly paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, will deploy from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Poland “over the next days,” U.S. Army sources have said.
According to the Pentagon, a Stryker squadron of around 1,000 U.S. service members based in the German town of Vilseck will be sent to Romania.
The first additional U.S. troops arrived in Germany on Friday.
The new plan goes above and beyond the 8,500 troops the Pentagon put on alert last month to deploy to Europe if needed. NATO defence ministers are expected to discuss further reinforcements at their next meeting on Feb. 16-17.
The United States and its European partners fear Russia may be readying an attack on its neighbour given Moscow’s massing of more than 100,000 soldiers near the two countries’ shared border. But the Kremlin denies such plans and instead blames Washington and NATO for undermining the region’s security.
Meanwhile, China put on a united front with Russia on Friday as the Ukraine crisis escalates, with President Xi Jinping joining Vladimir Putin in opposing further NATO expansion.
In a joint statement issued on Friday after the Russian president met Xi in Beijing, the two powers called on NATO to “abandon the ideological approaches of the Cold War”.
Putin has demanded guarantees that Ukraine will not join NATO. Russia also wants NATO and the United States to foreswear the deployment of missile systems near Russia’s borders and to pull back NATO forces in Eastern Europe.