Warsaw, Poland – After months of negotiations and speculation, the United States announced it would strengthen its military presence in Poland.
During a joint press conference with visiting Polish President Andrzej Duda, President Trump said the United States would send 1.000 additional troops to Poland in a bid to reinforce the U.S. military presence in Central Europe and strengthen NATO’s eastern flank.
According to Trump, the force will be taken from the U.S. contingent based in neighbouring Germany. “We have 52.000 troops in Germany, and Germany is not living up to what they’re supposed to be doing with respect to NATO, and Poland is”, Trump told reporters, suggesting his decision might also be meant to increase pressure on European NATO states that don’t spend enough on defence, and reward those that do. “I have to congratulate you. Thank you very much. But Poland is paying the max”.
Duda thanked the U.S. President for his “extreme kindness towards Poland and perfect understanding of Polish matters”.
Despite the smiles and handshakes, the fact remains that this is a slight disappointment for Polish officials, who had hoped for more: the U.S. ended up sending fewer troops than expected, and deployed only on a rotational basis. The exact size of the new U.S. contingent remains unclear: although the agreement plans for the “basing and infrastructure for 1.000 American troops” in Poland, Trump later told reporters they were actually talking about 2.000.
The highly-anticipated announcement fell short of committing to a permanent U.S. military base in Poland, something Warsaw had been lobbying Washington for months. Last year, Poland offered to pay up to 2 billion dollars for the base, while Polish President Duda joked they could call it ‘Fort Trump’ during a previous White House visit.
Trump only commented that the U.S. was “very interested” in that idea, but observers have warned this would trigger a strong response from Moscow, which might see it as a violation of the 1997 NATO-Russia agreement.
Nevertheless, Russia was still quick to react to the news of the new rotational contingent, with deputy-Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov saying the “aggressive” move had a “destabilizing and escalating character” on Europe’s security.
There are currently roughly 5.000 troops based in Poland on a rotational basis as part of NATO’s pledge to increase its readiness and military capabilities on its Eastern flank.