A POLISH town close to the border with Russia is the scene of intensive military exercises this week – amid fears it could be a flash point for the outbreak of World War III.
Orzysz – which sits just 35 miles from the heated frontier – has been hosting NATO live-fire exercises practically in view of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s forces.
It is this area near the Russian Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad that global powers fear may be the weak link in Europe’s defence against the bullish Kremlin’s military might.
But with these tactically-placed war games, the West – and especially the United States – hopes to make clear that it is fronting up to the Russian threat.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travelled to witness the explosive military drills on Wednesday.
He trekked through drizzling rain along the frozen ground with Polish officials to survey hundreds of troops in a scene reminiscent of the height of the Cold War.
SQUARING UP TO RUSSIA
Speaking from the military exercises, Mr Pompeo likened Orzysz to Cold War Germany’s Fulda Gap – where the West feared Soviet tanks could smash through.
Mr Pompeo, who served in Germany as a US Army cavalry officer, said: “Today, the gap in which we stand occupies the same priority focus for NATO commanders that the Fulda Gap did back then – once again because of Russian aggression.”
He said that the concerns of the wider world were based in reality because of the growing aggression displayed by Russia.
In 2014, Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and has since supported violent separatists in the east of the country.
Mr Pompeo added: “We take seriously those concerns that Russia may one day try to open a front along a line right here.”
He later watched as troops from the US, Poland, UK, Croatia and Romania fired rocket launchers and displayed hand-to-hand combat techniques.
Soldiers also burst out of armoured vehicles before taking squat positions and opening fire with their rifles at metalic targets shaped like enemy soldiers, AFP reported.
A Polish officer providing commentary said: “The snipers wait patiently for the enemy soldier to present the opportunity for the perfect shot.”
Poland is actively trying to woo the US into deploying more troops to the country to counter the Russian menace.
It has even offered to fund a permanent US military base – which Polish officials could be called Fort Trump.
But the US president has been cagey about his country’s relationship with NATO – accusing allies of letting America bear an unfair financial burden for its funding.
Asked if more US troops could be deployed to the region, Mr Pompeo said: “We are taking a look at it and I don’t know the ultimate decision we’ll make.
“But we will make sure we have not only the right number of troops but the right mix of folks out here to do the work that Europe needs and NATO needs and that America needs.”
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The number of US troops in Poland is capped at 4,500 but it fluctuates as formations rotate.
Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak signed a deal to purchase 20 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Lockheed Martin, in a ceremony at a Warsaw airbase attended by US Vice President Mike Pence.
Pence is in Warsaw to lead the US delegation at a conference of foreign ministers on Middle East issues – where Washington aims to ratchet up pressure on Iran.
US soldiers stationed in Orzysz, Poland, near the border with Russia[/caption]
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