US troops have begun arriving in Poland under a planned Nato operation to reassure the alliance’s Eastern European allies in the face of mounting Russian aggression.
American soldiers landed in Wrocław, home to a key Nato and Polish air base in south-west Poland.
The troops will be followed by around 2,800 tanks and other pieces of military equipment which are being transported by land from Germany.
Nato’s latest deployment along Russia’s western border falls under Operation Atlantic Resolve, a mission designed to demonstrate to Moscow Washington’s commitment to defend allies in Europe.
Atlantic Resolve was launched in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which sparked fears in the Baltic nations that Vladimir Putin was planning a similar land-grab there.
Under that banner, the US Army in Europe has been conducting training operations since May 2014.
The Polish embassy in Washington said the troops in Wroclaw were the first to arrive in Poland as part of Atlantic Resolve.
It has been described as one of the largest movements of US troops to Europe since the Cold War.
Lt Gen Tim Ray, deputy commander of US European Command, said: “Let me be very clear, this is one part of our efforts to deter Russian aggression, ensure territorial integrity of our allies and maintain a Europe that is whole, free, prosperous and at peace.”
The US troops are expected to be stationed at two training sites in western Poland in the short term before they are sent to sites at six other countries across the region.
Maj Gen Timothy McGuire, deputy commanding general of the US Army Europe, added: “This is a tangible sign of the United States' commitment to maintaining peace on this continent.
"It is a sign of the US commitment to this alliance and to peace and prosperity in Europe."
The US Army said the process of deploying to Europe was part of the training and tested how American forces would be sent at short notice to counter Russia in the event of an outbreak of war.
Troops will be on rotation in Poland and beyond for between four and six months and will work alongside local units.
The arrival of the 3rd Armoured Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will see the start of a continuous presence and back-to-back rotations of US troops and equipment in the region.
Among the deployments to Romania and Bulgaria will be the 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment – dubbed the ‘Iron Knights’ and the oldest armoured unit in the US Army.
The US is also increasing its presence in the Black Sea and in Western Europe at bases in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.
Tensions between Russia and the West have been heightened since the annexation of Crimea and the war in Syria, which put Washington and Moscow on opposing sides.
Russia blames the West for worsening relations and says the build-up of Nato troops in the Baltics is a provocation.
Around 4,000 Nato troops are set be posted to Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia in the coming months.
Britain will send an 800-strong battalion to Estonia, supported by French and Danish troops, beginning in May.
The deployment was criticised as “truly aggressive” by Moscow.Reuse content