Pro-Russian protesters stand next to a barricade in front of the occupied security service building in Lugansk, Ukraine, 09 April 2014. Russia on 09 April 2014 rejected accusations that it was massing troops for an invasion of Ukraine and accused the West of making 'baseless' claims and waging an anti-Russian campaign. EPA/YURIY STRELTSOV
Aerial refuelling aircraft are also due to be dispatched to Poland from the UK over the same period.
“This is very strong evidence of Allied commitment, and the visible presence of the U.S,” Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak told the TVN24 news station.
“We are striving to ensure that the lessons of the [Russian-Ukrainian] crisis result in the enduring presence of NATO in the east,” the minister added.
“The armies within the Alliance are working on this, on behalf of their foreign ministers,” he said.
Asked about NATO's readiness to intervene in the event of an attack on a member state, Siemoniak said that “these forces are prepared for immediate action.”
Siemoniak noted that the 18 US F-16 jet fighters will be stationed at an airbase in Lask,central Poland, where the US and Polish armed forces have been cooperating intermittently for over a year and a half.
“For several weeks now we've had 12 F-16 planes and transport aircraft there,” Siemoniak noted.
“The planes that are here at the moment will leave Poland in a few weeks and new ones from another base will take their place.”
The defence minister said that as far as NATO forces in region are concerned, attention is now focused on “long-term activities that could last years or decades,” although he acknowledged that such an arrangement cannot be finalised “in the space of a few days."
Meanwhile, the Ukraine interim government has said that it will not prosecute pro-Russian separatists if they leave government buildings they occupied in the east of the country and give up their weapons.
"We guarantee that there will be no criminal prosecution of people who give up their weapons and leave the buildings. I am willing to do this by presidential order," acting Oleksander Turchinov said on Thursday.
Pro-Russian separatists are holding buildings in the eastern cities of Luhansk and Donetsk, which Kiev has said could provide a pretext for a Russian invasion. (nh/pg)