The American military’s presence in Europe is shifting eastward, the Defense Department has confirmed, as a new agreement with Poland sets up a host of construction projects designed to support more U.S. troops in that country.
In addition to the 4,500 troops that currently rotate from the U.S., “Poland has agreed to fund infrastructure and logistical support to U.S. forces,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Tom Campbell told Military Times. An increase of 1,000 rotational troops is also still on tap.
The plan is part of an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement completed Monday and awaiting signatures.
“Alongside the recently announced European strategic force posture changes, the EDCA will enhance deterrence against Russia, strengthen NATO, reassure our Allies, and our forward presence in Poland on NATO’s eastern flank will improve our strategic and operational flexibility,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a statement.
Infrastructure projects will include
• A V Corps forward command post.
• A forward division headquarters
• Several combat training centers, starting with Drawsko and Pomorskie.
• An Air Force MQ-9 squadron.
• An aerial port of debarkation for loading and unloading troops and equipment.
• An area support group.
• A special operations forces facility to support air, ground and maritime operations.
• Facilities for a armored brigade combat team, a combat aviation brigade and a combat sustainment support battalion.
The Army’s V Corps had been deactivated since 2013, but the service announced it would stand the organization back up earlier this year, with its main headquarters at Fort Knox, Kentucky. On Tuesday, that plan fleshed out. About 630 soldiers will be assigned to V Corps, 200 of whom will man the Poland outpost on a rotating basis.
An Army Europe official told Army Times the service is still “unaware of the exact location” that V Corps will be set up in the country, and could “only confirm that it will be in Poland.” V Corps had previously been based in Germany.
The first command post rotation is expected to start in fiscal year 2021. V Corps’ primary mission will be operational planning, mission command and oversight of the rotational forces in Europe.
“The activation of an additional Corps headquarters provides the needed level of command and control focused on synchronizing U.S. Army, allied, and partner nation tactical formations operating in Europe,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said in a statement.
The plan builds off of talks a year ago about cost-sharing with Poland to fund a greater U.S. troop presence, as it keeps an eye on deterring Russian incursion.
Last June, President Donald Trump announced a 1,000-troop plus-up, largely from a division headquarters rotation and the addition of the MQ-9 Reaper squadron, but stopped short of unveiling a rumored “Fort Trump,” or another standalone U.S. base in Poland.
When Esper announced a plan July 29 to withdraw just under 12,000 troops from Germany and partially redistribute them around Europe, he alluded to co-locating some of those troops in existing European countries’ facilities, including in Belgium and Italy.
That would include these new projects in Poland, which will house U.S. troops on Polish bases.
Esper presented the plan as a re-balancing, as post-Cold War Europe has shifted NATO’s border with Russia eastward.
Trump, meanwhile, has characterized withdrawing troops from Germany as a direct rebuke, in response to the country not meeting its goal of contributing 2 percent of its gross domestic product to NATO, a goal the organizations set for itself by 2024.
“Germany is not paying their bills,” Trump told reporters July 29. “They’re delinquent. It’s simple.”
Poland is one of the minority of NATO countries who meets that spending benchmark.
While about 5,600 troops will shift from Germany to other parts of Europe, another 5,300 will head back to the U.S., then potentially move into the pipeline for rotational deployments back to Eastern Europe.
Since 2016, the Army has been rotating an armored brigade combat team to Europe. While much of that deployment includes Poland, exercises and engagements with partner forces have seen American troops moving down to Bulgaria and up to Estonia.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer