American tanks and soldiers joined an annual military parade in Warsaw on Monday, a symbolic show of U.S. military involvement in a region shaken by a more assertive Russia.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the U.S. Army commander in Europe, said his troops’ participation in Poland’s Armed Forces Day underlines the increased presence the U.S. plans to have in Poland and elsewhere in the region.
“Poland got a look of what they are going to see a lot of in the future — a U.S. army presence that is substantial and is going to be ongoing,” Hodges told reporters after watching the parade, which proceeded past government buildings, a presidential palace and the Russian embassy.
This was the third consecutive year that U.S. soldiers participated in the Armed Forces Day parade, but the first time that American tanks also took part, U.S. Ambassador to Poland Paul Jones said.
The continued U.S. buildup in the region will include the deployment early next year of a 4,500-solider armored brigade that will be headquartered in Poland.
“What people saw in this parade will be seen all across Poland next year,” Jones said.
The parade is part of a national holiday observed every Aug. 15 celebrates Poland’s victory over Russian Bolsheviks in 1920 near Warsaw.
Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and its support for insurgents in eastern Ukraine have prompted greater involvement in the region by the United States and NATO.
NATO plans to send four multinational battalions of about 1,000 soldiers each to Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Hodges said the U.S.-led battalion to Poland would deploy in April.