US mulls ‘Fort Trump’ in Poland
The move would breach a post-Cold War agreement with Moscow.
Polish President Andrzej Duda asked Trump for a permanent stronghold during a White House meeting, offering to call it “Fort Trump”.
Trump said he agreed with Duda that Russia had “acted aggressively” and appreciated the Polish offer to contribute more than US$2 billion.
In 1997, when Nato and Russia were negotiating the inclusion of Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, then US president Bill Clinton’s team reassured president Boris Yeltsin that the west had no intention of expanding its military presence up to the eastern frontier.
The 1997 Nato-Russia Founding Act, while not a legally binding commitment, said Nato had “no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members … and do not foresee any future need to do so”.
It also, critically, promised to not place bases on its new eastern border through the “permanent stationing of substantial combat forces”. Poland has urged the US to regard that provision as void after Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine.
Trump said: “I think it’s a very aggressive situation. I think that Russia has acted aggressively. They respect force. They respect strength, as anyone does. And we have the greatest strength in the world, especially now,” the tycoon turned populist added.
“We’re looking at it very seriously, I know Poland likes the idea very much, and it’s something that we are considering, yes,” he told the media.
The US currently supplies most of the troops, about 900, for a rotating Nato deployment in Poland as part of the alliance response to Russian intervention in Ukraine and large-scale military exercises in western Russia and Belarus.
Poland has called for a permanent, costlier plan, including a headquarters.
Moscow expressed concern in May about Poland’s request, saying Nato’s expansion towards Russia undermined stability in Europe, without mentioning Russia’s expansion towards Nato following the 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Trump is reported to have ordered a review of the costs of stationing US forces in Germany, against a backdrop of troubled relations with Berlin.
Diplomatic sources in Washington says he is furious with German Chancellor Angela Merkel about car exports and the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia which is under construction despite his objections. Trump has called on Merkel to buy US liquefied natural gas (LNG), but there is little demand for it in Germany for cost reasons.
Poland joined Nato in 1999 along with Hungary and the Czech Republic, followed by the three Baltic republics, despite Moscow’s vocal opposition.
Poland has repeatedly requested a permanent US military presence and says it already meets the Nato target of spending 2 per cent of its gross domestic product on defence. Trump has criticised other members of the alliance for failing to meet that target.
US forces deployed in Poland. Picture credit: Flickr