Poland won’t be getting a U.S. base in its country any time soon, despite lobbying efforts, but the U.S. has agreed to send more troops and unmanned aerial vehicles to help defend the ally against potential Russian incursion.
About 1,000 American service members will join existing forces on the ground, based at Polish facilities, President Trump said Wednesday in a White House press conference. They would be troops already scheduled to rotate through Germany, not an additional deployment.
“The Polish government will build these projects at no cost to the United States,” Trump said. “The Polish government will pay for this.”
The remarks came several hours after an Oval Office meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda said it could be more like 2,000, but that they would be coming from service members already stationed in Germany.
“We haven’t totally made up a decision,” the Trump said in the Oval Office, though he added they would be sending “no additional troops to Europe.”
The plan is the culmination of months of lobbying on the part of the Polish head of state, who floated the idea of a “Fort Trump” to beef up the rotational force currently deploying to the country, around 4,500 troops ― including an offer to chip in $2 billion.
“This is going to be an enhanced cooperation,” Duda said Wednesday. “It is going to be an enduring presence, which hopefully will increase gradually in terms of the number of troops, but also in terms of infrastructure, which is very important.”
Troops would include logistics, special operations and others, Duda said, as well as a division headquarters. It would most likely be an Army armored division staff element.
An additional MQ-9 Reaper squadron would also be joining the troops, according to a Wednesday news release from Duda’s office.
A permanent installation “would certainly be a statement that the U.S. would be making,” Trump said during the Oval Office meeting, but added that he doesn’t “talk about permanence or non-permanence.”
“We haven’t finalized anything. But the facility itself would be world class,” Trump said.
Soldiers had a seven-day notice before heading to Europe.
Though the U.S. has had no permanent presence in Poland, members of all four services regularly participate in training and exercises with Polish troops, as well as partner forces throughout Eastern Europe.
The Army, for example, has been sending heel-to-toe armored brigade rotations to Europe for the past several years, after drawing down a resident force.
On Tuesday, a Duda aide told the Associated Press that the presidents had concluded their talks successfully. Those discussions also included talks of an F-35 buy, though a decision was not announced Wednesday.
Duda and Poland’s defense minster, Mariusz Blaszczak, got some cockpit time in the jet during a visit Tuesday to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, according to a Tuesday Defense Department press release.