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Europe's peaceful period 'now over,' says Polish defense minister

Observing NATO maneuvers, Poland's Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak has said that Europe's "time of decades of peace after the Cold War is over." His comments come as the EU faces a growing number of crises.

Speaking on Thursday in Poland, following the first full exercise of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) or spearhead, Siemoniak said Europe must now do more to defend it's itself due to the increasing number of crises erupting around the continent.

"It's not only the Ukrainian and Russian crisis, but also [the "Islamic State"] and a number of different crises in northern Africa," he said. "I think it's a task for all of us to persuade the public that they should be ready to do more before it's too late."

Biggest reinforcement since Cold War

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg joined Siemoniak in the Polish town of Zagan on Thursday to observe the NATO maneuvers. The Western military alliance was "implementing the biggest reinforcement of our collective defenses since the end of the Cold War," Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

The move came after Russia announced that it would add more than 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles to its nuclear arsenal this year.

Moscow was responding to reported US plans to deploy heavy weapons to its apprehensive eastern European NATO allies, with Putin saying the US-led allianceis "coming to our borders."

US Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland played down Russia's plans on Thursday, however, saying that that "those kinds of announcements when made publicly … obviously have a rattling effect."

"When we look at what is actually happening inside Russia it is far less dramatic," she said.

Poland 'ready' for US equipment

Siemoniak also said on Thursday he had been in talks with US Defense Secretary Ash Carter over placing equipment in Poland and in four other eastern NATO nations. As far as far as logistics and organization were concerned, he said Poland was ready for the move.

"I expect a decision in the coming weeks and I hope it will be a positive one," Siemoniak added.

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, who was also in Zagan, called the stationing US weapons in eastern Europe "an appropriate defensive measure."

ksb/sms (AFP, AP)

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