President Donald Trump said the U.S. is considering a permanent military presence in Poland, something the Eastern European country has sought for more than a decade.
Speaking to reporters at the White House after he met with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said, "Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland. If they’re willing to do that, it’s something we will certainly talk about.”
Poland has openly courted a permanent U.S. present since President George W. Bush was in office, and that administration had considered the possibility of using one of Poland’s military bases as part of its missile defense system and locating ground-based interceptors there. Those talks eventually fell through.
The U.S. Air Force is getting more expeditionary thanks to a new kit that will enable the service to rapidly move to a partner nation’s airfield, set up a squadron and begin flying combat missions.
Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014, however, Poland has been an integral part of the bolstered U.S. presence in Eastern Europe, including repeat deployments of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team to show the rapid mobilization U.S. and NATO forces could provide in the case of another incursion. In August the Air Force deployed five F-22 Raptors and 40 airmen to Poland to take part in joint exercises there.
“I was smiling when talking to Mr. President, I said that I would very much like to ask to set up a permanent American base in Poland, which we would call ‘Fort Trump,’ ” Duda said in a joint press conference following their meeting. “I firmly believe this is possible. I am convinced that such a decision lies in the Polish interest and in the interest of the United States.”
Trump seemed in favor of the idea, particularly because of Poland’s financial contribution to it.
“Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base,” Trump said. “The [Polish] president offered us much more than $2 billion ... so we’re looking at it.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the Pentagon is working with Poland on potential options, but no decision has been made.
“The questions are many in there,” Mattis said. “You know it’s not just about a base, it’s about training ranges, it’s about maintenance facilities, all these kinds of things and a host of details you’ve got to study alongside. So no decision has been made. We’re studying it and we’re working together on that.”
Duda said the base would be an effective and justified deterrent against further Russian agression.
“The presence of the U.S. armed forces in this area is absolutely justified,” Duda said. “I am convinced there is no more effective method of preventing a war than a decisive stance illustrating that we are ready at any moment to repel possible attack.”
Poland wants a full U.S. armor division to help deter Russian aggression.
The U.S. also announced last week that U.S. Army Europe was expanding its troop presence by adding 1,500 soldiers to its forces in Germany.
The military said Friday that the new unit activations are scheduled to begin this year and that the troops and their families should all be in place in southern Germany by September 2020.
In a recent interview with Defense News, Estonian defense minister Jüri Luik said his nation would welcome “any increase” of U.S. forces in the region, noting “you don’t have to be a big strategist to understand the U.S. has the biggest deterrence power.”
There are already 33,000 U.S. troops in Germany.
The Associated Press and Defense News Pentagon bureau chief Aaron Mehta contributed to this report.