Obama unveils $1B European defense fund

 

President Obama asked Congress to authorize up to $1 billion for a “European Reassurance Fund” designed to boost security for European allies concerned over Russia’s incursion into Ukraine during a visit to Poland on Tuesday. [READ EUROPEAN REASSURANCE INITIATIVE FACT SHEET.]

At a joint press conference in Warsaw, Obama said the move would be a “powerful demonstration of America’s unshakable commitment” to European security.

"Under this effort, and with the support of Congress, the United States will preposition more equipment in Europe," Obama said.

The proposal would increase the rotation of American air and ground forces in central and Eastern Europe, the White House said. It would also bolster the American naval presence in the Baltic and Black seas, and help to improve the defense capacities of European countries like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, which share a border with Russia.

The White House said the request was “a necessary and appropriate show of support to allies who have contributed robustly and bravely to Alliance operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere and who are now deeply concerned by Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and other provocative actions in Ukraine.”

The $1 billion request will be included in the Pentagon’s 2015 Overseas Contingency Operations to Congress.

Poland is matching the American commitment by increasing its defense budget to 2 percent of its gross domestic product, President Bronislaw Komorowski announced Tuesday.

Komorowski said the move was a “very tangible gesture” he hoped would modernize the Polish military and inspire other European governments to increase their own spending.

The president is expected to discuss the proposed assistance in meetings later Tuesday with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, and in a subsequent conference with leaders from central and Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia.

Earlier Tuesday, Obama and Komorowski met with U.S. and Polish F-16 pilots participating in joint training missions designed to signal solidarity following the Russian incursion.

At his press conference, Obama urged other NATO members to also pitch in to help bolster security and assuage concerns of member countries.

"Everyone has the capacity to do their fair share, to do a proportional amount to make sure we have the resources, the planning, the integration, the training in order to be effective," Obama said.

Obama also warned the Kremlin there would be additional sanctions if Russia continued efforts to destabilize Ukraine.

“We have prepared economic costs on Russia that can escalate if in fact we continue to see Russia actively destabilizing one of its neighbors,” Obama said.

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