By Andrea Shalal and Inti Landauro
MADRID -The United States will create a new permanent army headquarters in Poland and deploy additional land, air and sea forces across the length and breadth of Europe in response to threats from Russia, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.
New U.S. warships will go to Spain, fighter jet squadrons to Britain, ground troops to Romania, air defence units to Germany and Italy and a wide range of assets to the Baltics, Biden announced at a NATO summit in Madrid.
He also underscored the Atlantic alliance’s commitment to “defend every inch” of its territory.
“We mean it when we say an attack against one is an attack against all,” he told reporters at the start of a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Steps by formerly neutral states Finland and Sweden to enter the alliance would make NATO stronger and all its members more secure, he said.
“We’re sending an unmistakable message … that NATO is strong, united and the steps we’re taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength.”
The United States has not communicated its new deployment plans to Russia, and sees no requirement to do so, a senior U.S. official told reporters.
U.S. officials declined to provide details on how many additional personnel would be sent to Europe as a result of the changes. The U.S. military has already added some 20,000 extra personnel on the continent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, bringing the total to around 100,000.
A permanent U.S. Army headquarters in Poland would be accompanied by a field support battalion – the first permanent U.S. contingent on NATO’s eastern flank, officials said.
The move would strengthen the ability of U.S. and NATO forces to work together across the entire eastern flank, Biden told reporters.
He said Washington would work with Spain to raise the number of U.S. destroyers based in Rota, Spain to six from four, increasing the ability of the U.S. Navy to respond to potential threats.
Washington will also position a rotational Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in Romania that will add “3,000 fighters and another 2,000 personnel,” Biden said.
In the Baltic states, the U.S. military will enhance its rotational deployments – which include armoured, aviation, air defence, and special operations forces – to reinforce security and demonstrate the combat readiness of U.S. forces, the White House said in a fact sheet on the changes.
Two additional squadrons of advanced F-35 fighter jets will be sent to Britain.
The Pentagon will also add 625 troops in Germany to oversee and carry out air defense artillery operations, combat sustainment support and engineering missions. That adds to a recent forces buildup announced in April 2021.
A short-range air defence battery will be stationed in Italy, adding 65 personnel.
Stoltenberg told Biden the increase demonstrated the U.S. leader’s “decisive leadership”.
“We’re going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet threats from all directions across every domain,” Biden said. “…We’re proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been.”
Asked about Turkey’s request for additional F-16 fighter jets, the senior official said Washington supported Turkey’s plans to modernize its military.
A separate official told reporters on Tuesday that Turkey’s requests for U.S. weapons were not part of an agreement under which it dropped its objections to Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members.