Despite reneging on plans for a missile defense system in Poland as part of his "reset" with Russia, President Barack Obama deployed 3,000 troops to the region Thursday as part of a broad commitment to calm a region that grew nervous after the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
The troops will be welcomed in an official ceremony Saturday. This marks the first time a NATO ally has attempted a continuous deployment since the end of the Cold War.
It's an odd move for Obama, who, according to The Daily Caller, has not enjoyed a positive reputation in the region since abandoning plans in 2009 for a missile base defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic that the Poles felt left them open to Russian aggression. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a "reset" button. “They have not really forgotten that,” Polish Secretary of State Anna Maria Anders told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a June interview. In 2014, The Russian Federation annexed Crimea and began backing separatists fighters in Eastern Ukraine.
But with word that President-elect Donald Trump may be strengthening ties with Russia, some believe Trump's generally pro-Russia views might have contributed to Obama's decision to deploy troops to the region. Trump's ties with Russia are assumed potentially pronounced enough that the Senate Intelligence Committee is planning an investigation to determine if the ties played a role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
It was further announced Saturday, that Trump's pick for National Security Advisor, Ret. Army Gen. Michael Flynn, is being looked at for conversations he has admittedly had with the Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, with one conversation in late December preceding a change in tone from the Kremlin regarding Russia's response to Obama's proposed sanctions.
Obama's decision to reverse course again on policy regarding Russia's European doorstep nations may be influenced by Trump's indication that he plans on, at the least, trying to strengthen ties with Putin.
The Poles, who met the troops Thursday on their way to the town of Zagan where they will be based, were waving American flags and happy for the attention at last. "This is the fulfilment of a dream," said Michal Baranowski, director of the German Marshall Fund think tank in Warsaw. "And this is not just a symbolic presence but one with a real capability."