Poland’s push to house a major permanent US military base dubbed last year by Polish President Andrzej Duda as “Fort Trump” is a big step closer to becoming a reality this week after top US defense officials met with Polish counterparts in Warsaw to negotiate an offer. US Defense Undersecretary for Policy John Rood led a delegation to the former Soviet satellite country and longtime east European defense ally on Wednesday to discuss the US “robust offer” to establish a permanent facility on Polish soil.
The Poles previously vowed to pay $2 billion for a base that could host a division-sized installment of US forces, which the US has called “very generous” — though likely to fall short of the total cost for such a base. “We have come forward with what we think is a very serious robust offer and we’re working out some of the technicalities this very week, when we hope to have a solid foundation to work from having coming out of this meeting,” a spokesperson for Rood’s office informed the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
Though the idea of a permanent US base in Poland has been floated for years, especially after the Russian-Ukraine conflict grew hot, last September’s official visit between Presidents Duda and Trump at the White House gave it real momentum.
Duda had dropped the surprising proposal during a press briefing, suggesting it could be called “Fort Trump” — to which Trump grinned and appeared to nod in approval.
“I invite you to post more American military troops in Poland,” Duda said, describing US presence in Poland as a “guarantor of security.”
And Trump responded at the time as follows:
“We’re looking at it very seriously, I know Poland likes the idea very much, and it’s something that we are considering, yes,” Trump told reporters during the Sept. 19 press conference, according to CNN.
Duda’s remarks, clearly designed at the time to play on the US president’s ego, came amidst joint statements wherein both leaders agreed that Moscow has “acted aggressively” in the region. Trump said that he shared concerns about Russian encroachment into former Soviet satellite countries.
Poland, a NATO member state since 1999, has long sought to invite closer military relations with the United States, something which Moscow has seen as a serious provocation. President Duda at the time of his visit with Trump had first offered to put more than $2 billion into a proposed permanent American base.
— The Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) September 18, 2018
According to Defense One current numbers of US as well as multi-national NATO forces deployed to Poland stand at an annual average of about 4,500 — but varies significantly from month to month.
However, precise details of just what was negotiated in Warsaw this week remains unclear, per Defense One:
Wheelbarger [Rood’s deputy for international affairs] said that if the Polish deputy minister of national defense, Tomasz Szatkowski, accepts Rood’s offer, then the State Department would take over negotiations on the “actual technical agreement.” She suggested that it would take “probably six months to a year” for the agreement to be finalized.
But she offered no details on the specifics of the U.S. offer — including whether it hewed closer to the Polish request for a full division or something smaller and potentially more dispersed. (She also did not comment on whether it calls for a base named after the president.)
What appear to be serious US-Polish discussions over a “Fort Trump” or at least a more expansive US presence comes less that six months ahead of when the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) between the US and Russia is set to finally terminate in August, after both sides declared they’ve effectively pulled out of the Reagan-era deal.
Perhaps with the sensitivity to a Russian reaction to any “Fort Trump” deal in mind, and out of a desire to keep the plans as secret as possible until a final deal is reached, one defense official privy to the US-Polish negotiations told Defense One: “This is more of a longer-term commitment to the type of presence that’s already in Poland, this is not a new U.S. base as some people think.”