Thursday, March 6, 2014

US moves fighters to Baltic in lieu of Crimean tensions

The U.S. military is increasing its presence in Poland and the Baltics in response to the crisis in Ukraine, officials said Wednesday.

The U.S.military will deploy more jets to Britian including six F-15 fighters, one KC-135 re-fueler — to Siauliai Air Base in Lithuania, according to a U.S. defense official

In addition a dozen F-16s and 300 military will deploy next week to Lask air base in central Poland, for a combined exercise with the Polish Air Force.

The U.S. already has four F-15s in Lithuania as part of a NATO’s Baltic air policing rotation — jets that fly patrols and respond to airspace violations in the Baltics.

The NATO air patrols have been in place for a decade and include military aircraft from Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Belgium, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and Czech Republic.

At the request of Poland, the Pentagon is beefing up the number of U.S. airmen assigned to an aviation detachment in Poland that trains the Polish Air Force.

The United States has 10 Air Force personnel there now, as well as F-16s and C-130s. The U.S. defense official could not say how many additional airmen would go to Poland, but did say that they would arrive sometime this week — likely tomorrow.

In a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel refused to speculate on what the United States military response would be if Russian troops, who now control Crimea, advance toward Kiev.

Hagel also said supplying additional arms to Ukraine would be a joint NATO or presidential decision.

Canada is sending two observers to track military activities on the Crimean peninsula, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement Wednesday.

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