Photographer: Natalia Dobryszycka/AFP via Getty Images

Poland Hails Pence's Russia Stance and Seeks More U.S. Troops

  • U.S. VP’s comments are ‘good news,’ Polish defense head says
  • Trump cabinet picks know how to deal with Russia: Macierewicz

Poland needs more U.S. forces on its soil to bolster defenses against Russia and welcomes U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s assurance that the U.S. is committed to the NATO alliance, the country’s defense minister said.

“This is good news for Poland and the Baltics,” Antoni Macierewicz said in an interview during an international security conference in Munich. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “know how to deal with Russia” by confronting President Vladimir Putin with strength, he said.

The comments reflect concern in eastern Europe after President Donald Trump questioned the alliance’s value during his election campaign and signaled his intention to improve relations with Putin. While Trump’s message that non-U.S. NATO members need to step up defense spending was reinforced by Pence in a speech to the Munich meeting, the vice president also assured Europeans of an “unwavering” U.S. commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was in the hall for Pence’s speech and planned to address the conference later Saturday, looked “very, very sad,” Macierewicz said. “We hope that the U.S. will increase its military presence in Poland. It should be done.”

About 3,500 U.S. troops and 87 tanks began a nine-month deployment in Poland in January shortly before Trump’s inauguration, providing temporary reassurance to NATO allies in the region, and Macierewicz said the buildup is continuing under Trump. Some of the soldiers will move on to other countries, while Poland will eventually host more than 6,000 troops.

“We should stop Putin,” said Macierewicz. That includes extending European Union economic sanctions against Russia for its encroachment on Ukraine, which shares a border with Poland, he said.

Pence’s comments that “we must hold Russia accountable” and ensure it abides by the Minsk accords for resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine drew a rebuff from Moscow.

“The stance repeated in a statement just made by Michael Pence in accordance to which Russia continues to bear sole responsibility for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements is disappointing," Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Russian Federation Council’s international affairs committee, told reporters in Munich.

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