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Duda and Trump Paving the Way Towards Increased US Presence in Poland. Specifics and Cost not Known [Commentary]

Image: Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP
Image: Jakub Szymczuk/KPRP

President Donald Trump and President Andrzej Duda participated in a joint press conference, following their meeting at the White House. During the meeting, declarations have been made on a prospect of broadly increased US military presence in Poland. However, no specific statements have been made overall, despite their being expected by the journalists and experts. 

Donald Trump, at the very beginning of the conference, recalled the Polish President’s visits to the US. Trump mentioned his recent trip to Poland as well. He also emphasized the key role of ideological common ground between the western nations, where the US-Polish relations play a key role. Noteworthy, from the point of view of defense developments, POTUS did stress the importance of the Polish F-35 procurement.

Donald Trump also mentioned the Defence Cooperation Agreement, the conclusion of which is expected to happen soon. It is possible that the signing of that document would be decisive for further steps, pertaining to the reinforcement of the US presence in Poland. For instance, that presence could gain a constant nature. As Andrzej Duda stressed - for now the presence even though permanent, is still rotational.

Donald Trump also mentioned the issue of 2% of GDP in defence spending repeatedly. He noted that a large group of NATO member states evades this commitment. This is placed in opposition to Poland which is one of the credible NATO allies meeting that requirement. According to Trump, 8 countries alongside the United States of America meet that requirement in total.

Donald Trump also noted that he has been talking to NATO Secretary-General multiple times, over his term, on the matter of financing of the defence domain. However, not every member state meets the obligation to pay a proper amount. Only a group of 8 nations, as emphasized by Trump, meets that requirement. Trump himself also noted the role and significance of the increased financing of the NATO activities that became valid during his term.  

Andrzej Duda noted that it is relevant that the President of Poland was the first one to have been invited to the White House, following the coronavirus situation. He stated that his discussion with Donald Trump also covered the relevant matters in the area of military cooperation. The discussion was related to confirmation of the already arranged, increased reinforcement, with those arrangements made last year, where the quantity and location of the rotational and permanent presence of the US forces were arranged. However, Duda also noted that the talks also pertained to further reinforcement of the aforesaid presence within the territory of Poland.

Whereas, as Duda stressed, the potential withdrawal of the US forces from Europe could be a significant security-weakening factor for Europe as a whole. Furthermore, not only has a conclusion as such been included in the perspective assumed by the Polish President, as a similar tone could also have been witnessed in the past, during the talks held between Duda and the NATO secretary-general. This means that Poland remains ready to meet and comply with alliance-related commitments. The above also could include the reception of some of the military assets that are to be withdrawn from Germany.

Duda also mentioned the US financial contributions made in the area of the Three Seas Initiative. Duda, primarily, noted the fact that the initiative could become both an internal, European area that may also refer to the strategic, transatlantic interest. This, in turn, would also have a relevant impact on the security in the EU and on the NATO eastern flank. Above all, the steps taken here would have a positive impact on the security of Poland.

It needs to be stressed that when answering the series of questions on the plans to reduce military presence in Germany, Trump emphasized the fact that Poland has been meeting its NATO financial commitments. POTUS used that argument to refer to the struggle that the US is involved in, to make Germany take over more burden in the defence domain. This is especially visible as Germany is spending around 1% of GDP on defence, and this made the POTUS feel let down.  The US military presence in Germany would be cut to 25 thousand soldiers, with some of the troops expected to return to the US. Some would be deployed to other countries. Poland would be one of the states that will act as a destination.

Donald Trump also said that Poland would be bearing the cost of deployment and that most probably the transfer would be taking place between Germany and Poland. It is unclear whether POTUS was referring to direct/indirect support of the US presence or to further increase of the Warsaw’s defence expenditure.

Duda noted that he is too humble to make any suggestions as to where the US forces should be transferred. He stressed that he asked the US, in his conversation with Donald Trump, not to withdraw the military assets from Europe. Whereas, that referred to Europe as a whole, with regards to the matter of US forces remaining present in locations other than Germany, if Washington decides to withdraw its military from the German soil.

Duda indicated that Poland is ready to host more US forces within its territory, as the NATO military presence in Poland, US-presence included, shows that NATO treats the issue of Article 5 seriously. New imperial developments of the Russian policy have also been accented by Duda (resulting in aggression in Ukraine and, previously, Georgia). Today, strong cooperation with the US also guarantees a proper level of security in the new circumstances. 

Donald Trump emphasized the fact that Germany pays billions to Russia for energy and then want the US to protect them from Moscow at the same time. Generally, it seemed that Trump has been disappointed with the trade and business stance adopted by Europe. Trump noted that the US soldiers have been protecting Europe for years now, with the Europeans exploiting the trade domain in a manner detrimental to the US. 

It needs to be said that both heads of state also placed a major emphasis on the fight against the pandemic and the joint effort that needs to be undertaken within that scope, to face the future challenges. This included the cooperation within the scope of preparing research on medicines that would be needed to beat the coronavirus, or on a relevant vaccine. The POTUS did notice the presence of a Polish military medical team and Cpt. Jacek Siewiera. Trump noted that the Polish military deployment did support the American fight against COVID-19. When asked about the Moscow military parade, Trump referred to the disarmament talks with Russia (going well). Duda said that he is supporting the Polish interest in the talks with the US partner.

Summing it up, looking at the Duda’s visit to the US, one may conclude that increased US military presence in Poland is “on the table”. Donald Trump declared that the elements that are to be stationed in Poland would be transferred from Germany. At the same time, Warsaw is also working towards maintaining the coherence of NATO as a whole. The specific arrangements have not been made yet and these may depend on the results of negotiation of the defence cooperation agreement and cost-division decisions, as Trump emphasized. The matter is still open.