Establishing a new U.S. military base in Poland won’t necessitate cuts from U.S. troop numbers in Germany, Kay Bailey Hutchison, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said Tuesday.
The Polish government is willing to pay up to $2 billion to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in their country, an offer that has piqued President Donald Trump’s interest. While the basing offer is far from finalized, it wouldn’t necessitate a reduction in U.S. troops posted within the borders of another NATO ally.
“It wouldn’t be at the expense of Germany,” Hutchison told reporters during a telephone conference before a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels this week, as first reported by Stars and Stripes. “We have a very large number of forces and bases in Germany that we don’t expect to change."
There are currently more than 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in Germany.
The comments push back against a Washington Post article from June, in which it was reported that Pentagon officials were conducting an impact analysis on “a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of American troops stationed in Germany."
That report came amid escalating tensions between Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The Trump administration has been pushing its NATO allies to all spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense by 2024.
German budget projections by 2024, however, estimate that the country will miss the mark, spending only 1.5 percent of its GDP on its military. That would be a large increase, but still short of what Trump expected.
On Tuesday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg praised Germany for increasing its defense investment by “80 percent” from where it previously was, but he said that the country should be doing more.
“It matters because Germany is such a big economy,” Stoltenberg said. “So, what Germany does matters when it comes to total defense spending among European NATO Allies.”
“The majority of allies have put forward plans to reach 2 percent by 2024. I hope, of course, that as we get new and revised plans that we will be able to increase that number,” he added.
Poland is one country that has already met spending priorities, possibly helping their argument for why they deserve a U.S. base.
The news that Poland was seeking a permanent U.S. presence came in May, when a copy of their proposal was leaked to the Polish press. In the proposal, the Polish defense ministry said there is a “clear and present need for a permanent U.S. armored division deployed in Poland,” and is willing to provide financial backing to host the soldiers that could reach $2 billion.
The proposal also stated that Poland was prepared to help with building schools and facilities for American military spouses and children who would be brought to the new base.
In November, former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met with his Polish counterpart Mariusz Blaszczak to discuss the offer.
“We are working out the details on what the offer is, what can best contribute to alliance unity, to alliance security and to the continued strengthening of the bilateral relationship,” Mattis told the press prior to his talks with Blaszczak. “It’s obviously something we’ll discuss with all of the allies as well."
The base was jokingly refereed to as “Fort Trump” by Poland’s president after meetings with Trump in September.
“Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland,” Trump told reporters at the White House after he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda. "If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”
Since the 2014 Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and incursion into the Donbass region, Poland has played a growing role in the U.S. military’s Eastern European deterrence posture.
Poland repeatedly hosts the U.S. Army brigade combat teams to demonstrate rapid deployment capability in the case of an invasion on NATO’s eastern flank, and the alliance’s Joint Force Training Center is already headquartered in the country.
In May, the Air Force also confirmed that the service’s MQ-9 Reaper drones now conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties from Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland.