Warsaw wants American boots on ground as protection against Russia.Poland wants a permanent U.S. military presence — and is willing to pony up as much as $2 billion to get it, according to a defense ministry proposal obtained by Polish news portal Onet.
The Polish offer reflects a long-standing desire in Warsaw to build closer security relations with the U.S. and put American boots on the ground. The push dates back to Poland’s entry into NATO in 1999, but has taken on added urgency in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region four years ago and aggressive posture toward the alliance.
Coming just over a month before NATO leaders gather in Brussels for a summit, the Polish initiative is bound to anger Russia, and will be looked at with skepticism by European allies that want to improve relations with Moscow, such as Italy and at times Germany.
‘Clear and present need’
“This proposal outlines the clear and present need for a permanent U.S. armored division deployed in Poland, Poland’s commitment to provide significant support that may reach $1.5-2 billion by establishing joint military installations and provide for more flexible movement of U.S. forces,” the defense ministry document states.
It adds that Warsaw is committed “to share the burden of defense spending, make the decision more cost-effective for the U.S. government and allay any concerns for Congress in uncertain budgetary times.”
The administration of President Donald Trump has pushed NATO allies to increase their defense budgets up to 2 percent of GDP, as the alliance suggests. Poland has been at or above 2 percent since 2015.
The defense ministry press office confirmed that the paper, called “Proposal for a U.S. Permanent Presence in Poland” and dated 2018, is genuine and said it is not classified.
The document contains information on the proposed locations of military bases, hospitals — including their capacities — and possible schools or even gyms for the families of personnel. It was delivered to the U.S. government and Congress.
Dominik Smyrgała, who served as a deputy to former Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz, under whom the proposal first started to take shape last summer, told Onet the proposal was drafted by senior ministry officials and a group of Polish military officers.
Poland currently hosts U.S. armed forces and NATO units, who are stationed in the country on a rotational basis, moving between Poland and three Baltic states to the north.
Duda in dark
In a sign of growing discord within the Polish government, the defense ministry confirmed that the proposal was sent to Washington before first consulting with the foreign ministry and — more importantly — without the knowledge of the president, Andrzej Duda, who is also the country’s commander in chief.
“The document did not require detailed arrangements with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the defense ministry press office said in an email to Onet.
Duda came out of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party but has at times clashed with it over domestic political issues, such as reform of the judiciary.
Some criticized the disclosure of the proposal. “Of course, these issues should not be made public. In this case, one should also distinguish openness from naivete,” said Janusz Zemke, MEP from the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament and a former Polish deputy defense minister.