United States President Barack Obama waves to the press as he departs the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC en route Warsaw, Poland on June 2, 2014. UPI/Ron Sachs/POOL | License Photo
WARSAW, Poland, June 3 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama, in Warsaw, Poland, called for a $1 billion "European reassurance initiative" to increase U.S. troop presence in Eastern Europe.
Obama announced he would ask the U.S. Congress for the expenditure, which would include sending navy ships to the Baltic Sea and Black Sea more often, have personnel positioned for faster military responses, and arrange for more military advisors to be available to U.S. allies.
The call to augment Eastern Europe military capabilities came on the first day of Obama's four-day European trip. Obama brought a message of resolve and determination to Poland, worried by its proximity to Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, as well as its involvement in other potential military incursions.
"I'm starting the visit here because our commitment to Poland's security as well as the security of our allies in central and eastern Europe is a cornerstone of our own security and it is sacrosanct. As friends and allies, we stand united together and forever," Obama told U.S. and Polish troops stationed at Warsaw's airport when he arrived.
The U.S. has sent 600 paratroopers and rotated more aircraft and personnel through Poland this year -- a decision which has not satisfied Eastern European leaders.
NATO, in a post-Cold War arrangement with Russia, agreed not to deploy significant forces in Eastern Europe. However, Polish leaders believe Russia broke the deal by annexing Crimea.
"For the first time since the Second World War, one European country has taken a province by force from another European country. America, we hope, has ways of reassuring us that we haven't even thought about. There are major bases in Britain, in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, in Italy. Why not here?" said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski in a telephone interview with the New York Times.
Obama, accompanied by Secretary of State John Kerry, met with Polish Prime Minister Bronislaw Komorowski and President Donald Tusk Tuesday, as well as with leaders of nine other Eastern European countries. Later in the week, he will meet with G-7 leaders in Brussels and with Ukraine president-elect Petro Poroshenko, before attending a ceremony in France honoring the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.