Poland's defense minister says that a new brigade consisting of Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian troops should be fully operational in the region by 2017.

Antoni Macierewicz spoke Monday in the eastern city of Lublin during a ceremony launching the new force that is intended to strengthen the defense of a region concerned over Russia's activity. Defense ministers from Lithuania and Ukraine also took part in the ceremony.

Involving Polish and Lithuanian NATO troops and troops from non-NATO Ukraine, the force is to take part in U.N. peace-keeping missions and will also help Ukraine upgrade its armed forces.

Macierewicz stressed it should serve as a deterrent to anyone who might threaten peace in the region.