WARSAW (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it was planning to send an armored military unit to Poland for exercises designed to strengthen the NATO alliance’s eastern flank in apparent response to tensions over a pro-Russian uprising in Ukraine.
The maneuvers, following bilateral UK-Polish field training exercises this month involving 1,300 British soldiers, come at a time also of increased NATO concern over Russian air force forays around the coast of nordic countries.
“In the coming weeks we will send an armored unit that will conduct exercises on the territory of Poland,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said at a joint news conference in Warsaw with counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak.
Russia denies any role in a pro-Russian separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine, which began in April and has cost more than 4,300 lives. It also says the actions of its military aircraft are not in any way abnormal.
The announcement of the French exercises came after France said it had suspended the delivery of a warship to Russia, a move that could improve French relations with other NATO members anxious that France could be arming a country that in March annexed Crimea, a part of Ukraine.
Franco-Italian missile maker MBDA and France’s Thales are currently competing in a tender, estimated to be worth over $5 billion, to build a missile defense system for Poland.
Reporting by Jakub Iglewski; Writing by Marcin Goettig; editing by Ralph Boulton