Quantcast

Fort Trump? President says US base in Poland is under serious consideration

American soldiers salute during the playing of the national anthem during a welcoming ceremony for them at a base in Zagan, Poland, in January 2017.

MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 18, 2018

STUTTGART, Germany — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is considering permanently basing U.S. troops in Poland, a country that has offered up to $2 billion in financial support in hopes of luring American forces to the country.

“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland, and certainly it’s something we’ll discuss,” Trump said during a news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda at the White House.

For years, Poland has lobbied for larger numbers of U.S. troops in its country, where there are now several thousand American soldiers carrying out missions on a rotational basis.

In addition to about 700 U.S. cavalrymen positioned near Poland’s border with the Russian military enclave of Kaliningrad, the country also is a main outpost for an Army armored brigade on rotation from the United States.

However, all the U.S. forces shuffle in and out of Poland and there is no permanent American base in the country. Warsaw, long uneasy about a more aggressive Russia, has argued an Army brigade and associated support units stationed permanently in the country would serve as a more serious deterrent to Russian aggression.

"I would very much like for us to set up a permanent base in Poland, which we would call Fort Trump," Duda said at the press conference.

To that end, Poland has offered as much as $2 billion to set up a permanent U.S. base in the country. Within the U.S. military and among security analysts, there is a long-running debate over the merits of building up forces in Poland. Supporters of the idea argue it puts more American firepower in areas where NATO is more vulnerable and makes the alliance a more formidable deterrent to potential Russian aggression.

Some allies such as Germany, however, have argued a permanent NATO force in Poland or the Baltics would only escalate tensions with Moscow. Another concern is setting up a permanent base in Poland would cause a rift among NATO members and chip away at alliance unity.

For Trump, Warsaw’s willingness to pay at least a portion of the costs for basing troops in Poland could be enticing and also send a message to NATO members that he has criticized for not spending enough on defense.

Still, Poland’s offer falls far short of replacing base arrangement the United States has in Germany, home to the massive Ramstein Air Base and major U.S. Army training grounds in the Bavarian towns of Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels.

Yet, Trump signaled he is sympathetic to Poland’s wishes.

“We’re looking at it very seriously, I know Poland likes the idea very much, and it’s something that we are considering, yes,” Trump said.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

American and Polish soldiers in front of their vehicles at the live fire exercise in Zagan, Poland, on Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.
MARTIN EGNASH/STARS AND STRIPES

from around the web