DRAWSKO ARMY BASE, POLAND —
The United States has sent about 600 soldiers to Poland and the Baltic nations to ease anxieties in the region over the developments in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
American paratroopers fight their way into an abandoned building, together with elite Polish forces.
Poland had around 2,500 troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ones here have no shortage of combat experience with the Americans.
“Our standard operating rules are basically the same, so we know how to cooperate, how to fulfill all the tasks, and how to finish all the objectives that our superiors are giving to us,” explained Captain Marcin Wilga.
As the building and surrounding area are secured, snipers watch the forest.
Media were invited to film the operation at amid concerns here in Poland about events in neighboring Ukraine.
Swidwin is the main town in the area, and its idyllic center masks a deep unease about Russia’s intentions.
High school senior Paulina Kielboska wants Poland to remain the post-Communist democracy it has been her whole life. “Yes, I am afraid about it, but I think - I hope that everything will be okay,” she said.
There are those with longer memories, like Stanislaw Piotrowicz and his friends, who don’t believe Russia wants war but don’t mind having American troops here. “They can stay somewhat longer, until we know everything’s okay,” he said.
The training grounds are up the road from this northern Polish town, but it’s still a lot closer to Germany than it is to the Russian border.
Poland has asked for a NATO force of two brigades, or 5,000 soldiers. Any further deployment should not escalate the crisis, says Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution in Washington. "I think you’ve got to be very clear that any capability in these countries that we’ve deployed there or stationed there would have to be modest in size and lightly armed," he stated.
Many Poles believe this deployment is the least America can do after their country’s participation in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.