The US Army has officially opened its first permanent military garrison on NATO’s “eastern flank” in a ceremony on Tuesday.
Stretching from the Baltics to the Black Sea, the eastern portion of the North Atlantic bloc is made up of eight nations – all former members of the USSR or Warsaw Pact. The US Army’s V Corps will now have a lasting presence at Camp Kosciuszko in Poland.
The V Corps’ commanding general, Lt. Gen. John Kolasheski, explained the garrison showed that Washington is deepening its military commitments in Eastern Europe. “The relationship of the US and Poland serves as an example of the deepening ties throughout the alliance,” he said, adding “today’s activation ceremony is a tangible reminder of the growth in our relationship.”
As the Soviet Union crumbled in the early 1990s, Western leaders repeatedly assured Moscow that NATO would not expand into former USSR states or establish bases in Eastern Europe. However, since the George H.W. Bush administration offered those guarantees, all subsequent US presidents have violated the pledge and pushed NATO’s military footprint closer to Russia’s borders.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak described the garrison as “historic,” saying that Warsaw has been “striving for this for years – for this word ‘permanent’ – and it has now become fact.” He continued, “this is a historic moment, a sign that the United States is committed to Poland and NATO, and that we are united in the face of Russian aggression.”
The Pentagon currently has two officers stationed at Camp Kosciuszko and 200 additional troops at the base on a rotational basis. As Washington had already kept about 10,000 troops in Poland previously, an analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, Artur Kacprzyk, argued the significance of the new garrison “is primarily symbolic.”
Poland has been a key hub for Western arms shipments to Ukraine given its location. While Camp Kosciuszko is not located near the border, an American diplomat explained the garrison was created to confront Russia. In a statement shared on Twitter, US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski said the decision to open a long-term base proves that “the United States is committed to Poland and the NATO alliance, and that we are united in the face of Russian aggression,” using verbiage nearly identical to Warsaw’s defense chief.