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Trump says US considering permanent military base in Poland

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FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump is greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda as he visits Poland during the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Warsaw, Poland July 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
President
Donald Trump is greeted by Polish President Andrzej Duda as he
visits Poland during the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Warsaw,
Poland July 6, 2017.

Thomson
Reuters


  • Poland wants a permanent US presence, and the
    government has said its willing to pay for it.
  • On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US was
    “looking at it very seriously.”
  • Poland’s interest is longstanding, and is of a piece
    with broader concern in the region about Russia.

Poland said earlier this year that it was willing to pay up to $2
billion to help fund a permanent US military presence there — a
proposal President Andrzej Duda reiterated during the country’s
Army Day celebration in August.

Duda visited President Donald Trump
at the White House on Tuesday, and his country’s interest in
hosting the US Army, and its willingness to pay for it, appear to
have resonated with Trump.

“We’re looking at it very seriously,” Trump said during an
Oval Office meeting with Duda, according to Bloomberg.

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the
United States to come in and have a presence in Poland,” Trump
said. “If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will
certainly talk about.”

During a press conference after their Oval Office meeting
Duda, reiterated his desire for a larger US military presence in
the country and touted recent purchases of US military hardware.
The US base his government has offered to fund would be called
“Fort Trump,” he said.


Poland Warsaw military parade soldiers
Polish
President Andrzej Duda at the Polish National Army Day parade in
Warsaw, August 15, 2018.

(AP
Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)


Duda took office in 2015, and at home he has pursued policies that critics
see as undemocratic and risk running afoul of the European
Union.

But his interest in a US military presence is of a piece
with broader concerns in the region about Russian, which have
grown since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and started backing
separatist movements in Ukraine.

NATO has deployed multinational battle
groups
to Poland and the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, and
Lithuania. The battle group in Poland — about 1,000 personnel in
total — is led by the US and includes troops from the UK,
Romania, and Croatia. (The US military is also upgrading and improving its
facilities throughout Eastern Europe.)

The Polish offer, first reported by local media in late May, was made by the
Defense Ministry, which did not consult with the
president or the foreign ministry before sending it to the US. It
reflects Poland’s long-held interest in closer security ties with
the US.


Battle Group Poland U.S. Solders, assigned to Bulldog Battery, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, along with 10th Mountain Combat Aviation Brigade, conduct sling load and air assault training with M777A2 Howitzers, during Saber Strike 2017, at Bemowo Piskie Training Area near Orzysz, Poland, June 7, 2017.
US solders, part of Battle
Group Poland, conduct sling-load and air-assault training during
Saber Strike 2017 near Orzysz, Poland, June 7,
2017.

US Army

“This proposal outlines the clear and present need for a
permanent U.S. armored division deployed in Poland, Poland’s
commitment to provide significant support that may reach $1.5-2
billion by establishing joint military installations and provide
for more flexible movement of U.S. forces,” the proposal states,
according to Politico.

The proposal said Poland was committed to sharing “the
burden of defense spending,” to making the decision “more
cost-effective for the US,” and to mollifying Congressional
concerns “in uncertain budgetary times.”

Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said at the time that he had
discussed a permanent US military presence in Poland with
officials in Washington. He said the Senate had contacted the
Pentagon about the matter.

In August, during Army Day celebrations in Warsaw, Duda
said that such a US military presence would “deter every
potential aggressor,” in what was almost certainly a reference to
Russia.

Poland has lobbied for a permanent US presence in the
past.


NATO
US troops,
part of a NATO mission to enhance Poland’s defense, before an
official welcoming ceremony in Orzysz, Poland, April 13,
2017.

Associated
Press


In 2015, a US diplomat said one would not be established
but that the US maintain would maintain a “permanent rotating
presence” in the country. (In early 2017, the president of
Lithuania, Poland’s neighbor to the north, said she wanted
a permanent US presence there
“to not only deter but to defend” against Russia.)

Of particular concern is the Suwalki Gap, a 60-mile-long
section of the Poland-Lithuania border between Belarus, a Russian
ally, and Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea. Some
in the region and in NATO worry Russia could shut that
corridor
, isolating the Baltics and thwarting NATO
reinforcement and resupply efforts.

Poland has already met the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that
the NATO allies agreed to work toward by 2024 — a spending goal
that Trump used to bludgeon other NATO members. In August, Duda
said he wanted to increase
that outlay even more, reaching 2.5% of GDP by 2024.

After their Oval Office meeting, Trump told the press that they
had discussed defense issues and praised Poland for recent
military decisions, including the purchase of US-made Patriot
missiles.

“We are grateful for Poland’s leadership on defense spending and
burden-sharing in NATO,” Trump said. “I am glad that it plans to
increase spending beyond the 2% limit.”

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