Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — US troops in Poland to become permanent

President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division

President Biden has announced plans to bolster U.S. forces in Europe amid a persistent threat from Russia, with intentions to permanently headquarter U.S. Army V Corps in Poland.

We’ll share what’s changing and where additional U.S. troops are heading, plus the breakthrough in Finland and Sweden’s bid to join NATO and the details of the largest prisoner swap since the start of Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen MitchellSubscribe here.

Biden unveils plans to bolster US forces in Europe

President Biden on Wednesday announced plans to bolster U.S. forces in Europe amid a persistent threat from Russia, saying the moves would help NATO fend off threats “from all directions, across every domain.”

Biden vowed to increase the number of troops stationed in Europe on the second day of a NATO summit in Madrid during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

What’s going where: Specifically, the president announced plans to permanently headquarter U.S. Army V Corps in Poland, add a rotational brigade in Europe stationed in Romania and increase rotational deployments to the Baltic states — moves that will bolster forces on NATO’s eastern flank. 

Biden also said that the U.S. would send two more F-35 squadrons to the United Kingdom and add air defense and other capabilities in Germany and Italy. The president also highlighted plans to send two additional Navy destroyers to Spain, an announcement he made the day prior.

Biden’s message: “We’re sending an unmistakable message, in my view,” Biden said, “that NATO is strong and united and the steps we’re taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength.”

“Together with our allies, we are going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet threats from all directions, across every domain,” Biden continued.

Under wraps, for now: Speaking on a call with reporters, Assistant Secretary for Defense Celeste Wallander declined to specify the number of additional troops that would be sent to Europe in keeping with Wednesday’s announcement.

“I think we’ll be able to give numbers in the future as we, you know, identify the specific units,” Wallander said. “These force posture changes will take place over the coming months.”

  • Biden said during his remarks that the U.S. had surged 20,000 forces to Europe earlier this year as Russia threatened Ukraine, estimating the total of U.S. forces currently in Europe at 100,000.
  • He also commended the progress toward adding Finland and Sweden as members of the alliance, saying: “NATO is more needed now than it ever has been.”

Standing together: Stoltenberg said during the meeting with Biden that Putin’s attack on Ukraine had failed to weaken NATO, citing the bids by the two Nordic countries to join the alliance.

“He is getting the opposite of what he wants. He wants less NATO. President Putin is getting more NATO,” Stoltenberg said.

Read more here

NATO invites Finland, Sweden to join alliance

NATO officially invited Sweden and Finland to join its military alliance on Wednesday, a day after Turkey dropped its reservations over having the Nordic countries join the defense bloc. 

“It demonstrates that President Putin has not succeeded in closing NATO’s door,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during the NATO summit in Madrid. “He is getting the opposite of what he wants. He wants less NATO; President Putin is getting more NATO by Finland and Sweden joining our Alliance.” 

An unmistakable message: “We’re sending an unmistakable message, in my view — and I think yours as well — that NATO is strong, united and the steps we’re taking during this summit are going to further augment our collective strength,” President Biden concurred. 

  • The development comes against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, which has shifted Sweden’s and Finland’s attitudes about joining the military alliance. The two Nordic countries submitted their applications to join NATO last month.
  • Though many of NATO’s members expressed support for both countries to join the military alliance, Turkey raised objections, accusing Finland and Sweden of not being aggressive enough against a group that Turkey and other nations have designated as a terrorist group, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party.
  • However, Turkey withdrew its qualms on Tuesday after the countries signed a trilateral memorandum vowing to support one another against national security threats and to enhance counterterrorism cooperation. 

Russia’s response: The invitation was immediately slammed by Russia, with one Kremlin official saying it was “a purely destabilizing factor,” according to CNBC.

Read the full story here

Ukraine secures largest prisoner swap since invasion

Ukraine announced it has secured the release of 144 Ukrainian soldiers Wednesday in the biggest prisoner swap since the start of Russia’s invasion in February.  

  • Out of the 144 soldiers released, 95 were individuals who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, according to Ukraine’s military intelligence agency.
  • The steel plant was under siege at the start of the war, with hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers surrendering in late May. The surrender came after weeks of negotiating as Russian forces took control of the whole city.

The intelligence agency said most of the released soldiers have serious injuries from attacks by Russian forces. 

Where they came from: Other released soldiers include 59 from the Ukrainian National Guard, 30 from the Navy, 28 from the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 17 from the State Border Service of Ukraine, nine Territorial Defense soldiers and one from the National Police of Ukraine. 

Read more here

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will hold a press conference at the conclusion of the Summit of NATO Heads of State and Government in Madrid, Spain, at 6:15 a.m. ET
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host a discussion on the NATO summit, the Ukraine crisis, and the South Korea-US-Japan trilateral relationship at 9:30 a.m. 
  • The U.S. Institute of Peace will hold a talk on “Preventing Conflict Amid the Global Food Crisis” at 10 a.m. 
  • The The Middle East Institute will host a virtual discussion on “Will the War in Ukraine Push Iran and Russia to Compete?” at 10 a.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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Tags Biden Jens Stoltenberg NATO Poland russian invasion of ukraine ukraine US-Poland relations Vladimir Putin

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