Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania have agreed to launch a joint military force which is expected to hold its first drill next year.
The defense ministers of the three states signed the agreement in Warsaw on Friday, in the presence of Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski.
Polish defense officials told Reuters that LITPOLUKRBRIG (Lithuanian–Polish–Ukrainian Brigade)
could take part in peacekeeping operations or, if necessary, form the basis of a NATO battle group in the region.
Lithuania and Poland are NATO members, while Ukraine’s recent appeal for a special status outside the bloc was turned down by US president Barack Obama.
“I hope that it will be possible to hold the first [LITPOLUKRBRIG] exercises in one year,” Komorowski said, adding that the creation of the unit “is part of a wider plan…to support Ukraine, among others, in the area of modernization.”
The Polish president stressed that the deal signing proves the trio’s commitment to security in the region.
He also expressed regret that LITPOLUKRBRIG wasn’t formed earlier, and that the sides will now have to make up for lost time.
The newly formed brigade will have its headquarters in the eastern Polish city of Lublin, situated not far from the country’s border with Ukraine.
The size of the unit is yet to be determined, according to Polish Defense Ministry spokeswoman Anna Klissaid.
However, Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported that 545 Ukrainian troops, 3000-3800 Polish servicemen, and 150-350 soldiers from Lithuania will form the brigade.
According to Polish TVN21 channel, the subunits forming the brigade will remain at their usual dislocation points in Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine, and will only get together for exercises and military missions.
The idea to create LITPOLUKRBRIG was generated in 2007, when Lithuania, Poland, and Ukraine decided to establish a joint battalion.
A year later, those plans were adjusted to a more ambitious project of putting together an entire brigade uniting Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Polish troops.
The three states have been on high alert following Russia’s reunion with the Republic of Crimea in March and the start of Kiev’s military operation against Ukraine’s southeastern regions, which demanded federalization of the country.
Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania blame Russia for masterminding the unrest and providing anti-Kiev rebels with weapons and troops.
However, no convincing proof has been provided to back the claims, which have been repeatedly denied by Moscow.