Polish president eyes increased US troops in Trump meeting

Washington (AFP) –


Polish president Andrzej Duda will discuss increasing the American military presence in Poland during an upcoming meeting with Donald Trump, representatives for the two countries said Tuesday.

"There will be a significant announcement tomorrow ... about troops commitments in Poland," an American official said.

He declined to give more details about the announcement, but Krzysztof Szczerski, an adviser to the Polish president, said the American presence "will increase both in quality as well as quantity."

The plan will have two parts -- a general political declaration and a second, more detailed section that "contains points the (Polish) president brought up during his last visit to the United States, such as Fort Trump," Szczerski said Monday in Warsaw.

At a joint press conference with Duda in September at the White House, Trump said Poland offered to pay Washington at least $2 billion to help meet costs for an American military base, which Duda said could be called "Fort Trump."

American soldiers are already stationed by rotation in Poland as part of NATO operations, but the proposal could create tensions within the group, of which Poland is a member, as well as increase the ongoing tensions between Russia and the West.

The Pentagon has been less enthusiastic about the plan, with both US Army Secretary Mark Esper and then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressing concerns in September about having adequate space to train soldiers.

Esper added that, in many cases, the terrain was "maybe not robust enough to really allow us to maintain the level of readiness we would like to maintain."

After months of negotiations, the two countries reached an agreement which the presidents are scheduled to sign during a meeting Wednesday at the White House, according to Polish defense minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

"We worked very hard to strengthen relations in the field of the military," he said during a meeting Tuesday at the Pentagon with interim Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.

"It's a very important moment, a new important moment after Poland's accession to NATO," he added.

"It's a process. We have finalized the first stage of our negotiations and have begun new discussions."

Poland has been angling for a permanent US troop presence since at least a decade ago, when it was in talks with President George W. Bush's administration to host a missile-defense complex.

That deal eventually fell through under President Barack Obama, but Poland in March of 2018 signed a $4.75 billion contract to purchase the US-made Patriot anti-missile system.

For Poland, Russian military expansion is a source of concern, particularly the 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Black Sea Crimea region, which Duda called a "constant violation of international law."

Trump -- accused by political opponents of having colluded in a shadowy Russian operation to aid his surprise 2016 election win against Democrat Hillary Clinton -- agreed with Duda's assessment, calling Russia's actions "aggressive."