LASK, Poland - The United States launched its first permanent military presence on Polish soil on Friday, an air force detachment to service warplanes, in a move long sought by its NATO ally Warsaw.
President Barack Obama announced plans to station air force personnel at Lask air base near Lodz, central Poland, during a visit last year after Warsaw pressed for what it sees as a security guarantee in the face of a more assertive Russia.
From next year, the 10 resident US staff will service four annual aircraft rotations, mainly of F-16 fighter jets and C-130 Hercules transport planes. Up to 200 uniformed personnel and civilian contractors will also be temporarily on the base.
The increased presence of US military in Poland is certain to complicate relations with Russia, already concerned about Washington's plans to station part of a missile shield system on the soil of a former Soviet satellite.
Warsaw, one of the most pro-American countries in Europe, had looked sceptically at Obama's efforts to "reset" relations with Moscow.