KEY POINTS

The Polish government has stated that it is willing to pay as much as $2 billion for a permanent US military base on its territory (2019), which Warsaw sees as a more solid security guarantee than the rotational presence of American/NATO troops on its territory (2019).

  • Poland’s perspective is laid out in a 2018 report by the Ministry of Defense.

  • The leaders of the Baltic states – Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia – have also expressed strong support for a permanent US base in Poland (2018).

  • Moscow’s aggression against two of its neighbors – Georgia (2019) in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014 – exacerbated Polish fears of abandonment by its Western allies and prompted Warsaw to consider the permanent stationing of US troops on its soil.

  • Poland is one of the most pro-American countries in Europe (2017).


HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

  • Many Poles fear that, despite being a NATO member, in the event of Russian aggression, Poland may be abandoned by its Western allies (2019). These concerns are based on the country’s history:
     

    • In 1939, when Nazi Germany (and, later, the Soviet Union) invaded and carved up Poland, Warsaw’s British and French allies declared war on Berlin but provided no meaningful help to Poland.
       

    • In the late 1940s, Poland’s Western allies also failed to prevent the Soviet communist occupation of Central and Eastern Europe.
       

    • More recently, in 2008 and 2014, NATO did very little to help the Georgians and Ukrainians in the face of Russian aggression (2018).

  • Given the above, Warsaw believes that only a permanent US military presence can successfully deter a potential attack by Moscow.


RUSSIAN OPPOSITION & THREATS

  • Predictably, Russia strongly opposes the permanent stationing/basing of US troops in Poland (2019).
     

    • In 2018, Vladimir Putin expressed his opposition through his press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, while senior Russian senator Vladimir Dzhabarov declared that “Poland becomes the object of a retaliatory strike by placing the base...one of the main targets in case of a possible conflict.... The closer they get to NATO, the more endangered Poland’s very existence becomes” (2018). This echoed Russian threats made a decade earlier in opposition to the Bush-era missile shield base in Poland (2008).
       

    • Belarus – ruled by the pro-Russian regime of Alexander Lukashenko – threatened to allow Moscow to station more of its troops on its territory if a US base is deployed in Poland (2018).


DEBATE IN US

  • Gen. Ben Hodges has argued against a permanent base in Poland, claiming that it would strain relations with other NATO allies and be “needlessly provocative” towards Russia (2019).

    • In a January 2018 paper, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellows Robert Blackwill and Philip Gordon recommended that the US “deploy permanently an additional armored combat brigade in Poland” (p. 23) to contain Russia.

    • American Enterprise Institute fellow Marc A. Thiessen stated that President Trump can “shut down” critics accusing him of alleged pro-Russian sympathies “with one bold move: Announce he is moving out most U.S. forces currently stationed in Germany and sending them to Poland” (2018).


LEGISLATIVE STATUS IN US

  • In mid-June 2018, the US Senate approved a measure – Section 1254 (pp. 635-638) of the Senate version of H.R.5515, the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (2018). The Act requires the Pentagon to study the necessity and political consequences of a permanent US base in Poland.

    • Congress ordered the Pentagon to submit a report to Congressional defense committees by March 1, 2019. The amendment was sponsored by Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), but did not get any serious traction in Washington until President Duda and President Trump met in September 2019.

  • As of June 2019, the US will likely relocate over 1,000 new troops to Poland and President Trump is seriously considering the creation of a permanent US military base in Poland (nicknamed “Fort Trump.”)