U.S., Polish Leaders Agree to Increased American Presence in Poland
(Source: US Department of Defense; issued June 12, 2019)
More than a year of intense Defense Department-led negotiations between the United States and Poland have yielded an agreement that involves additional U.S. infrastructure in Poland, as well as an increase in the number of U.S. rotational forces that operate there.

President Donald J. Trump and Polish president Andrzej Duda signed the agreement Wednesday.

"As stated in the joint declaration, the U.S. and Poland continue to enhance our security cooperation," Trump said. "Poland will provide basing and infrastructure to support military presence of about 1,000 American troops. The Polish government will build these projects at no cost to the United States. The Polish government will pay for this. We thank President Duda and the people of Poland for their partnership in advancing our common security."

The president also thanked Poland for meeting the security demands of NATO, saying that insofar as burden-sharing is going, Poland is contributing its fair share to NATO.

"It is among eight NATO allies, including the United States, currently meeting the minimum 2% of [gross domestic product] ... for defense spending," Trump said. "And Poland is there."

Duda said the agreement is a "calm but consistent policy" in terms of security cooperation between the United States and Poland.

"This is of breakthrough character," Duda said. "It moves us to another era. So far, we can say, the Americans were testing the situation in Poland, how it looks, how it feels — what about logistics, whether it is possible to stay in Poland and to successfully attain the goals and implement the tasks of a defensive nature."

Duda said he thinks U.S. military leaders have determined it is possible to do those things, and this is why the agreement was signed. He also said rotational forces are a good choice.

"It is a rotational presence, yes it is," Duda said. "This is most beneficial from today's perspective to train soldiers through rotational presence. By having rotational presence, more soldiers can come to a country, be present there, look at a culture, at the conditions in place in a given country."

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said the signing of the agreement underscores the shared values of the United States and Poland, and will serve to strengthen defense ties between the two nations.

"Enhanced bilateral cooperation in security will deepen our Polish-American partnership, which is vital to addressing today's current threats and challenges," Shanahan said. "We look forward to this continued defense relationship, and friendship, for years to come."

While the United States doesn't permanently station forces in Poland, it does maintain a rotational force in the country. On average, about 4,500 rotational U.S. military personnel are in the country during any month. According to the agreement, the presence is expected to grow by about 1,000 personnel. Those troops will provide additional defense and deterrence capabilities in Eastern Europe.

The declaration also indicates the United States will establish a division headquarters in Poland, and that a combat training center will be established at Drawsko Pomorskie in northern Poland for use by both U.S. and Polish forces. Additional training centers around Poland are also called for.

Under the agreement, the U.S. also plans to establish an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance squadron in Poland made up of U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles, to establish an aerial port in the country, and to build infrastructure to support an armored brigade combat team, a combat aviation brigade and a combat sustainment support battalion.

Initial infrastructure to support this U.S. growth in Poland, as well as establishment of a U.S. special operations capability and an area support group, are expected to be funded by the Polish government, at no cost to the United States.

"Both countries seek to conclude international agreements and other arrangements necessary to realize the common vision for enhanced defense cooperation, including the streamlining of the functioning of the U.S. forces in Poland," the agreement reads. "The United States and Poland are to have a regular process to consult and plan for potential force posture adjustments and related infrastructure requirements for the U.S. forces deployed to Poland."

Previously, Poland had been a member of the Warsaw Pact with the Soviet Union from 1955 to 1991. As a member of NATO since 1999, Poland now is looking to expand its contribution to the common defense of NATO partner countries. The U.S. will help Poland to accomplish that goal, Shanahan said.

"The United States and Poland have a long-standing and fruitful defense relationship. Over time, our shared history of military cooperation, collaborative partnerships, and continued commitment to security in the region have resulted in a strong and prosperous friendship," Shanahan said. "There is no question among NATO allies that the U.S. military presence in Poland contributes to security in the region, providing deterrence and strengthening the alliance, and that by enhancing that presence, we will continue to ensure democracy, freedom and sovereignty."

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Additional 1,000 US Troops to Be Sent to Poland
(Source: Voice of America News; issued June 12, 2019)
THE WHITE HOUSE --- The United States and Poland have signed a joint declaration affirming closer defense cooperation, which President Donald Trump says makes clear not only their strategic partnership “but deep common values, shared goals and a very strong and abiding friendship.”

Trump on Wednesday, alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda, announced 1,000 more U.S. service members will be sent to Poland.

Still unresolved is whether there will be a permanent placement of up to 2,000 additional American uniformed personnel in the country.

“We would be moving them from another location,” said Trump in the Oval Office, suggesting the troops would be shifted from Germany.

Trump ruled out boosting the overall number of American forces in Europe.

Later, during a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Duda noted there are 4,500 American military personnel in his country on a rotational base, and he said the document signed Wednesday would clear the way for additional units, including special forces, as part of an “enduring presence.”

The two leaders avoided announcing a “permanent” shifting of more U.S. troops to Poland – a move likely to significantly increase tension with Russia.

“It’s always going to be up to the United States to decide how many troops are sent to Poland,” Duda explained.

Wednesday’s announcement of the 1,000 additional troops “is more symbolic than significant” since they will neither be combat troops nor will any forces be based in Poland permanently and “will not add major military capabilities against Russia,” says Hudson Institute Fellow Blaise Misztal.“Poland will see this as hopefully the beginning of greater, not the final state of, U.S.-Polish defense cooperation.”

Poland has pledged to contribute at least $2 billion to place additional U.S. forces and assets in the country to deter any possible Russian aggression.

Duda has previously suggested calling the facility to host them “Fort Trump,” in honor of the U.S. president. Other Polish officials say that is expected to be a symbolic, not official, name for the military facility.

“That’s all I need -- Fort Trump. You people would have a field day with that,” responded the U.S. president to a reporter’s question in the Oval Office about the facility, which Trump said would be “world class.”

Trump is hailing Poland’s decision to order from the United States “32 or 35 brand new F-35s at the highest level.”

Duda had an opportunity to visually inspect one of the planes on Wednesday – but at a distance as it was flown over the White House.

Trump was also clearly impressed with the strike fighter’s capabilities.

“It actually came close to a halt as it came over the White House,” said the U.S. president.

Poland is among the seven NATO countries that have already hit their goal of 2% GDP spending on defense, a pledge that Trump has often criticized other NATO allies for not yet achieving. The pledge, signed in Wales in 2014, requires all NATO countries to reach this goal by 2024.

Trump has been wary both of labeling Russia as an adversary and of sending more U.S. forces abroad.

“Nevertheless, Poland has been able to convince him to acquiesce on both points,” according to Misztal. “Poland has successfully positioned itself as the administration’s best and closest European partner.”

Some members of the U.S. Congress have other concerns about Poland.

Thirteen House Democrats, in advance of Duda’s arrival, sent a letter to Trump asking the U.S. president to raise with his guest the state of democracy and human rights in Poland.

“While the United States and Poland will remain close allies – indeed, because we are the closest of friends – it is critical that you speak honestly with Polish leaders about the importance of standing up for democratic values,” the letter reads.

“I have growing concerns about the current government’s efforts to draw inward, curtailing critical democratic protections such as a free press, an independent judiciary, and a nonpartisan military,” says Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, co-chair of the Congressional Poland Caucus and who is of Polish heritage. “Right-wing, nationalistic extremism is on the rise in Poland, as evidenced by troubling anti-Semitic rallies, inflammatory rhetoric, and anti-immigrant hate speech.”

Asked about the issue by reporters in the Oval Office, Trump replied: “I’m not concerned at all. They won’t backslide. They have to do well. We have to make sure they do well.”

Duda chimed in: “There are no problems with democracy in Poland. Everything is doing excellent.”

The Polish president began his six-day visit to the United States on Wednesday with the White House visit, his second such meeting here with Trump.

Duda also invited Trump to make a second visit to Poland this coming September to mark the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of the country, which triggered World War II.

Trump responded that such a trip is under consideration.

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