Poland on Saturday formally welcomed a contingent of U.S. troops that arrived in the country earlier in the week, part of a NATO deployment aimed at deterring Russian aggression in the region.
Poland’s prime minister, Beata Szydlo, and Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz welcomed the troops at a ceremony in the western Polish town of Zagan.
"The presence of American soldiers in Poland is another step in our strategy to ensure safety and security for Poland and the region," Szydlo said after telling the soldiers she hopes they “feel at home.”
The first contingent of U.S. soldiers arrived in Poland from Germany Thursday, leading Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to call the deployment a threat to Russia’s “interests and our security.”
“This is even more pronounced when a third party reinforces its military presence on our doorstep in Europe,” the Kremlin spokesman told reporters.
FILE - Polish Army and U.S. Army soldiers attend the opening ceremony of the Anaconda-16 military exercise, in Warsaw, Poland, June 6, 2016.
Largest build-up since end of Cold War
Eventually, the U.S. plans to station more than 3,000 soldiers in Poland, marking the largest troop build-up in the country since the Cold War ended.
The mission, dubbed The Atlantic Resolve, will see the soldiers, along with 87 Abrams tanks and more than 500 vehicles, rotate between Poland and several other nearby NATO countries, including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.
"This is America's most capable fighting force: a combat-ready, highly trained U.S. armored brigade, with our most advanced equipment and weaponry," U.S. Ambassador to Poland Paul James said during Saturday’s ceremony.
The deployment was ordered by the Obama administration in 2014 as a response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.
U.S. soldiers, part of the Armored Brigade Combat Team, crossed the Polish border Thursday at the city of Olszyna and headed for their base in Zagan.
Over the coming years, Macierewicz said, there will be a total of 7,000 NATO and US troops stationed in Poland.