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Polish president eyes increased US troops in Trump meeting

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Polish president Andrzej Duda will discuss increasing the American military presence in Poland during an upcoming meeting with Donald Trump, representatives for the two countries said Tuesday.

“There will be a significant announcement tomorrow … about troops commitments in Poland,” an American official said.

He declined to give more details about the announcement, but Krzysztof Szczerski, an adviser to the Polish president, said the American presence “will increase both in quality as well as quantity.”

The plan will have two parts — a general political declaration and a second, more detailed section that “contains points the (Polish) president brought up during his last visit to the United States, such as Fort Trump,” Szczerski said Monday in Warsaw.

At a joint press conference with Duda in September at the White House, Trump said Poland offered to pay Washington at least $2 billion to help meet costs for an American military base, which Duda said could be called “Fort Trump.”

American soldiers are already stationed by rotation in Poland as part of NATO operations, but the proposal could create tensions within the group, of which Poland is a member, as well as increase the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West.

The Pentagon has been less enthusiastic about the plan, with both US Army Secretary Mark Esper and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressing concerns in September about having adequate space to train soldiers.

Esper added that, in many cases, the terrain was “maybe not robust enough to really allow us to maintain the level of readiness we would like to maintain.”

After months of negotiations, the two countries reached an agreement which the presidents are scheduled to sign during a meeting Wednesday at the White House, according to Polish defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

“We worked very hard to strengthen relations in the field of the military,” he said during a meeting Tuesday at the Pentagon with interim Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

“It’s a very important moment, a new important moment after Poland’s accession to NATO,” he added.

“It’s a process. We have finalized the first stage of our negotiations and have begun new discussions.”

Poland has been angling for a permanent US troop presence since at least a decade ago, when it was in talks with President George W. Bush’s administration to host a missile-defense complex.

That deal eventually fell through under President Barack Obama, but Poland in March of 2018 signed a $4.75 billion contract to purchase the US-made Patriot anti-missile system.

For Poland, Russian military expansion is a source of concern, particularly the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimea region, which Duda called a “constant violation of international law.”

Trump — accused by political opponents of having colluded in a shadowy Russian operation to aid his surprise 2016 election win against Democrat Hillary Clinton — agreed with Duda’s assessment, calling Russia’s actions “aggressive.”

U.S. Navy leads 18-nation exercise in Germany
Washington (UPI) Jun 10, 2019 -
The U.S. Navy’s 2nd Fleet is leading BALTOPS, a two-week 18-nation exercise that involves 8,600 personnel in Germany’s Baltic Sea port of Kiel.

The 47th annual multinational Baltic Operations began Sunday and ends June 21 among the NATO allies.

BALTOPS, which is an annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, is one of the largest exercises in northern Europe “enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations,” according to a Navy news release.

“No one nation can face today’s challenges alone, we are much stronger together,” Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet, said. “Our partner and NATO alliances must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense efforts and adapt through improving readiness and responsiveness.”

Other participating nations are Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey.

The exercise will include 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft and two submarines. The USS Mount Whitney, a Blue-Ridge class amphibious command ship, and the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, are among the ships participating.

“I think BALTOPS represents the habit we have made in operating in a coalition environment and in a multinational environment,” said British Royal Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Burns. “One of the advantages, particularly in the NATO framework, as we operate together more and more we standardize our procedures so we now have a generation of military folk who are used to operating together with standard procedures.”

Activities will include finding and destroying sea mines and submarines, using air defense and landing troops onshore as well as defense against attack from enemy navy vessels.

NATO‘s Air Operations Center in Uedem will direct all air operations.

“Baltic Sea is of vital strategic importance for the Alliance and is bordered by six NATO countries,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said in a news release. “BALTOPS is now in its 47th year and is not directed against anyone — but clearly the security environment in the region has deteriorated after Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.”

Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania touch the Baltic Sea, and Finland, Norway and Sweden dip into the sea.

A scheduled landing is planned in Klaipeda, Lithuania, about 90 miles from where Russia maintains a naval base in Kaliningrad, USNI News reported.

The 2nd Fleet command in Norfolk, Va., was re-established last year amid Russia’s growing naval activity in the Atlantic.

“BALTOPS tests how well our forces work together and shows that NATO can defend itself against any adversary,” Lungescu said.

Also, BALTOPS will be among the first major training opportunities for the British-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes 3,000 personnel from several NATO and partner countries.

After BALTOPS, most ships participate in the Kielerwochen naval parade in Kiel, NATO said.

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India spends big on Maldives security

Male, Maldives (AFP) June 8, 2019

Indian leader Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated a coastal radar system and military training centre in the Maldives on Saturday, as New Delhi seeks to fend off Chinese influence in the strategically-placed nation.

The Maldives, a low-lying archipelago of more than a thousand tiny coral islands south of the Indian subcontinent, straddles the world’s busiest east-west maritime route.

India, the country’s traditional ally, had watched former strongman leader Abdulla Yameen’s growing political a … read more

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