- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Trump administration is poised to send approximately 1,000 more U.S. troops into Poland to help curb Russian aggression in Europe, but apparently stopping short of Polish hopes for a permanent U.S. deployment in the country, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Times.

The troop agreement is expected to be sealed as part of a larger plan to expand bilateral ties between Washington and Warsaw when Polish President Andrzej Duda visits the White House on Wednesday.

The new troops heading to Poland will not be combat troops, but support and logistics units, according to the Joint Declaration on Defense Cooperation between the U.S. and Poland, to be released Wednesday.

Poland, with a long history of distrust of Russia, has been among the most vocal NATO members calling for a military build-up on the alliance’s eastern flank. Warsaw has been pushing for a permanent U.S. military base on its soil ever since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Mr. Duda has been so anxious for the security a permanent U.S. deployment would provide that his government has offered up to $2 billion to establish the facility and has joked he is prepared to name the outpost “Fort Trump.”

The deal instead calls for a forward-deployed divisional headquarters in Poland, as well as a combined training center for American and Polish troops and an Air Force MQ-9 reaper intelligence and surveillance drone squadron.

Also, U.S. forces will “establish an infrastructure” to support a future deployment of two Army brigades and a “combat sustainment battalion,” according to the document.

Senior officials from the Pentagon and National Security Council declined to confirm details of the deployment during a call with reporters on Tuesday. The Trump White House is looking to expand “strategic relationships across all fronts” with Poland, not just militarily, an NSC official said.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan also refused to provide details on the pending troop announcement, ahead of a meeting with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak at the Pentagon.

Nearly 4,500 U.S. troops are already stationed in Poland. A Pentagon official would not provide operational details the new troops’ mission in Poland or timelines as to when those forces will arrive in country. But, despite Warsaw’s hopes, the official added that the troops will not be stationed in Poland on a permanent basis.

The temporary nature of the deployment is designed to keep the U.S. in line with a key post-Cold War agreement with Russia on future expansion of Western forces in Europe. The agreement, known as the NATO-Russia Founding Act, calls upon European nations to enforce the alliance’s collective defense in former Soviet states through cooperation and dialogue, rather than additional troop deployments.

The pending troop announcement remains “completely consistent with the commitments we have with NATO” under the act, another NSC official said Tuesday. The act itself is also not a legally-binding treaty.

The Pentagon “is adhering to the spirit” of the act, while arguing that Moscow’s aggressive moves in Ukraine, Georgia and elsewhere in eastern Europe are forcing the administration’s hand to increase American military presence in Poland.

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee said Monday he backs a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland to restrain Russia.

“A larger U.S. presence would deter bad actions in the region” by Russia, committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington state Democrat, told reporters.

Some think the opening of Fort Trump is just a matter of time.

“There are still details being worked out but, eventually, we are going to get there where the U.S. has a permanent presence stationed in Poland,” Dan Kochis, a European security analyst at the Heritage Foundation, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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