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NATO Launches Battalion In Poland Near Kaliningrad Border

Polish President Andrzej Duda speaks during U.S.-led NATO troops welcoming ceremony near Orzysz, Poland on April 13, 2017.

NATO has activated a new multinational battalion in Poland near the border of Russia’s Kaliningrad, with the Polish president calling it a "historic moment” for the country.

Officials on April 13 said the NATO battalion will be stationed near Orzysz, 60 kilometers from the border with Kaliningrad, a Russian territory on the Baltic Sea separated from mainland Russia.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that generations of Poles have waited for this moment since the end of WWII, generations that dreamed of being part of the just, united, democratic, and truly free West," Polish President Andrzej Duda said during a visit to Orzysz.

The unit will be under U.S. command and have about 1,000 troops, including members from Britain and Romania, with Croatian soldiers expected to join later.

Officials said the deployment is separate from a U.S. battalion of 3,500 troops that arrived earlier in the year and based in southwestern Poland near the German border.

NATO units, led by Germany, Canada, and Britain, are also being deployed this year in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

The alliance has bolstered its presence in Eastern Europe to reassure allies in the face of a more-assertive Russia after its illegal 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP