US starts wargames with Poland in Black Sea

March 12, 2014 - 1:28:31 am
LASK AIR BASE, Poland: The United States and Poland began wargames yesterday as Washington makes a gesture of support for its eastern NATO allies after Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, but bad weather delayed naval manoeuvres with Romania and Bulgaria.

Without naming neighbouring Ukraine, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski called on his country’s political parties to safeguard defence spending at a time of budget constraints due to the “events to the east”.

The United States says both the air drills in Poland and its joint naval exercises in the Black Sea were planned before the crisis in Ukraine. But they send a message of resolve to Nato members nervous about Russia’s intentions in its former Cold War backyard, along with separate reconnaissance flights over Poland and Romania near the 

Ukrainian border.

The Defence Ministry in Bucharest said a Nato E-3A AWACS (airborne early warning and control) plane would fly through Romanian airspace yesterday. The aircraft fly out of Germany and Britain.

At the Lask base in central Poland, Komorowski watched as four Polish F-16s took to the air. A US Hercules transport plane landed with support staff and at least 12 US F-16 fighter jets and 300 personnel are due to arrive by tomorrow for the exercises, beefed up at Warsaw’s request after Russian forces seized control in Crimea.

Flanked by a handful of US soldiers, Komorowski stressed the need to maintain defence spending in Poland, a staunch US ally still haunted by decades of Russian domination during the Cold War. “I hope events to the east of the Polish border, which is also Nato’s border, will encourage tough decisions regarding Polish security,” he told reporters.

Military funding in Poland, which marks the 15th anniversary of its accession to Nato today, is under pressure.

Komorowski urged all parties to safeguard annual defence spending set by Polish law at 1.95 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The parties are reluctant to cut back on welfare as an alternative before municipal and European Parliament elections this year and Polish parliamentary polls in 2015.