“A Safe Poland”

The official welcome event for the US army taking place in the western city of Zagan was live-streamed on Krakow’s Main Square to a sizable crowd of curious onlookers. The ceremony included speeches from Poland’s political and military leadership, who warmly welcomed the arrival of American military personnel agreed upon at the NATO summit held in Warsaw in July of 2016. Poland has long lobbied for a permanent American troop presence and is now hosting the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russia, meanwhile, offered sharp criticism of the developments, framing the presence of American troops in such proximity to its borders as a serious threat to its own national security.

Light-Hearted Picnic

The very serious escalation of geopolitical tension was not to be found on the Main Square where the tone was undeniably festive. Classic American songs were performed on the stage. A long winding line of people awaited their free serving of army stew. Soldiers, many appearing to be barely out of youth, were in high demand for photographs. The army band performed their traditional military tunes. Meanwhile, children joyfully played on dated looking armored vehicles.