WHITE HOUSE --- Germany’s loss would be Poland’s gain — that was the essence of a message U.S. President Donald Trump communicated on Wednesday, alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda, when he discussed the shifting of thousands of American troops in Europe.
The United States will probably move some military personnel from Germany to Poland, Trump confirmed, replying to a reporter’s question at a joint news conference in the White House Rose Garden.
“We’re going to be reducing our forces in Germany,” Trump said.
His administration is planning to cut the number of troops stationed in Germany to 25,000 from 34,500, bringing some home and moving others, to punish Chancellor Angela Merkel for not paying what the U.S. president perceives as Berlin’s fair share of the costs of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
NATO members are supposed to spend at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense each year, but it is not a legally binding requirement.
Trump is also irked that Germany buys natural gas from Russia, sent through the Nord Stream pipeline. “I think the people of Germany are very unhappy about” their country spending “billions of dollars to buy Russian energy,” Trump said.
'Ready' to receive troops
Duda told the Wednesday afternoon news conference he requested that Trump “not withdraw U.S. forces from Europe,” adding “I am ready” to receive more U.S. troops in Poland.
The U.S. Army has been planning to send an armored brigade combat team to Poland for rotational deployments.
Poland has expressed a need for more military support since Russia’s 2014 annexation of nearby Crimea.
Trump said he looked “forward to signing a defense cooperation agreement” with Poland.
Wednesday’s meeting was Trump’s first with a foreign leader since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March. It was also the third time Duda had come to the White House during the Trump presidency.
Duda is in a surprisingly tight race for reelection back home, and Trump used the Rose Garden event to lavish praise on the visiting president and the U.S.-Poland relationship.
“I do believe he has an election coming up, and I do believe he’ll be very successful,” Trump said.
Centrist gains on Duda
Polish voters are to decide in four days whether the conservative president will serve a second term in office. While Duda is the front-runner in the election, Rafal Trzaskowski, a centrist opposition candidate, has been gaining in the polls.
Commentator Boguslaw Chrabota wrote in the Rzeczpospolita daily newspaper that Duda was “desperately looking for a triumphant ending” to his campaign. But Chrabota also said the meeting with Trump carried “considerable risk” if he promised to use large amounts of taxpayer money to pay for U.S. military hardware.
No announcement was made of any such purchases following the Oval Office meeting on Wednesday between the two leaders.
Media reports have said that in addition to relocating 2,000 troops from Germany to Poland, the United States is looking to move to the country 30 F-16 fighter jets and granting it five used C-130 transport planes.
The two leaders also spoke of U.S. cooperation to allow Poland to generate electricity through nuclear power plants, six of which are in the planning stages.
A joint statement issued Wednesday said Washington and Warsaw were “to begin a new chapter of our energy cooperation by partnering to develop Poland’s civil nuclear power sector.”