More than a dozen U.S.-made M1 Abrams tanks arrived at the Baltic Sea port city of Szczecin on Wednesday as part of Poland’s multibillion-dollar military modernization effort that has only intensified since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The transfer will help fill the gap in Poland’s armored arsenal after it sent about 240 of its Soviet-era T-72 tanks to Ukraine. Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said on Twitter Polish authorities are strengthening the armed forces in order to “effectively deter the aggressor,” in a clear reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The security of Poland and other eastern European NATO states has been put in the spotlight again this week following the aborted mutiny by Wagner Group mercenaries against Mr. Putin’s government. Under a deal that ended the weekend crisis, Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and unknown thousands of the company’s troops relocated to Belarus — in camps near the Russian ally’s border with NATO countries.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said Tuesday the sudden presence of Wagner Group troops inside Belarus was a “very negative signal for us which we want to raise strongly with our allies.” Both Mr. Duda and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda made surprise visits to Kyiv Wednesday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss the events of the past week and to preview a major NATO summit set for Vilnius in two weeks.

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Polish defense officials said 14 M1A1 Abrams tanks were on the first ship and about 100 more will soon follow as part of a $1.4 billion contract. The tanks had been intended for the U.S. Marines but the service’s shift to a more nimble, amphibious-focused force focused on China and East Asia made the metal behemoths expandable.

“They are here. The Abrams — the best friends of the American Marines — will soon join our soldiers and take care of Poland’s security,” Mr. Blaszczak said on Twitter. “This is an important day for the Polish army.” He hailed the Abrams tanks as the “best in the world” and said Poland will soon have a sufficient number on hand to field a battalion’s worth of them.

In addition to the M1A1 Abrams, Poland also is buying 250 top-of-the-line M1A2 tank models in a separate $4.75 billion deal. They are due to arrive by 2026 but officials in Warsaw hope to accelerate the delivery.

“Not every country can have such tanks. Poland is the first country outside the United States that will have Abrams tanks in the most modern version,” Mr. Blaszczak said, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

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Poland, a member of NATO, has emerged as a staunch ally of Ukraine. Officials announced earlier this year that Warsaw intends to spend 4% of GDP on defense, twice the NATO benchmark of 2% for members of the alliance.

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