Poland Offers $2 Billion For Permanent U.S. Base

Poland makes the U.S. and NATO an offer they might want to consider refusing.

Poland is offering to pay as much as $2 billion for a permanent military base:

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.

“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.

Not surprisingly, the Russians aren’t entirely thrilled with this idea:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Monday that gradual NATO military expansion towards its borders did not improve security or stability in Europe as it commented on media reports Poland is seeking to secure a permanent U.S. military presence on its territory.

“When we see the gradual expansion of NATO military structures towards our borders…, this of course in no way creates security and stability on the continent,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call on Monday.

On the surface, this would seem like the proverbial offer that the United States can’t refuse. It’s seldom the case that a nation is practically begging the United States and NATO to establish a permanent military presence inside their borders. It’s even less common for a nation to offer to put up a significant amount of cash to back up the request. Additionally, putting an American/NATO military base in Poland would arguably send a signal to Vladimir Putin and Russia that, contrary to what he may believe, the United States and the NATO alliance is as committed to the defense of not just Poland, but also to its other Eastern European members. This is significant given the fact that, in the wake of its efforts in Ukraine that began with the seizure of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and quickly expanded to supporting and providing logistical material support to the rebels in eastern Ukraine, Russia has been making what some could consider threatening moves aimed at the Baltic State members of NATO, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

In response to those subtle, and at times not-so-subtle threats, we have seen some action from the West. Just months after the Russians moved into Crimea, for example, NATO announced a plan to step up military patrols fell far short of establishing a permanent military presence close to the Russian border. This came at roughly the same time that a NATO Commander warned that continued Russian threats could result in the establishment of a permanent NATO presence in Eastern Europe, something the alliance has refrained from doing since completing its eastward expansion with the addition of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004, Albania and Croatia in 2009, and Montenegro in 2017. One year later, it was announced that the alliance was considering prepositioning equipment and supplies in Eastern Europe such that any future deployment could be easily supplied. In addition to all this, NATO has taken steps such as bolstering air defenses in the areas close to Russia, which the Russians have claimed crosses a “red line” of some sort. Additionally, the alliance has stepped up its training exercises in the east and the United States has expanded its military spending allocated toward Eastern and Central Europe. Taking all this into account, the idea of a permanent base in Poland, and one they’re willing to help pay for, certainly seem enticing, and would most especially be a thumb in the eye of Vladimir Putin.

There may be valid military reasons to accept this offer, but if the idea is to antagonize Russia, that seems to me to be a rather dubious reason to expand the security commitment that NATO and the United States have already made to its Eastern European members. As things stand, NATO appears to already have its hands full dealing with the increased threats that Putin has made in Eastern Europe to longer standing member such as the Baltic states. Giving Russian President Vladimir Putin further reason to keep that pressure up doesn’t seem to me to serve a legitimate purpose at this point in time. Even more dangerous are the proposals to add nations such as Georgia and Ukraine to the alliance. In both cases, we’re dealing with nations that both sit right on the Russian border and have historic ties to Russia that should not be ignored. In Ukraine’s case especially, adding that nation to NATO at the same time that pro-Russian guerrillas continue to fight in the eastern part of the country would make extending membership at this time extremely unwise and likely only to push the alliance and the United States into a confrontation with Moscow that would not be in anyone’s interest. The eastward push of NATO has been widely questioned elsewhere in no small part because it arguably revives very old Russian fears about being encircled by enemies and potential adversaries. Adding to that by accepting this offer from Warsaw is arguably a step too far.

This isn’t to say that either the United States or NATO should pander to Russian threats, of course. If there is a rational military reason for a permanent military presence in Poland or elsewhere then this could be a good opportunity to establish that. As things stand, though, it strikes me that the pre-existing idea of pre-positioning supplies in the area, with the idea that troops could easily be moved into the area if it became necessary, is a more than appropriate response for the time being. Needlessly inflaming the situation with a permanent troop presence further east in Europe than the United States or NATO have ever had such a thing could end up being more problematic than it’s worth.

Update: This post was updated to add the link to a Reuters report on the Russian response to this news.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Europe, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, Russia, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. TM01 says:

    michael reynolds, so would Trump be Putin’s stooge for doing this or would he just be doing the bidding of the Likuds and leading us into a war with Russia, which is what all the neo-cons really want?

    Asking for a friend.

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  2. Mu says:

    Good idea, fight the next war on the east side of the Oder.

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  3. drj says:

    It’s even less common for a nation to offer to put up a significant amount of cash to back up the request.

    FYI: US allies, including Germany, Japan and South Korea, contribute billions of dollars towards the costs of establishing and running US bases in their countries.

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  4. CSK says:

    A quandary for Trump: Does he annoy Putin, or does he pass on the opportunity to hold the Poles up for $50 million for the branding rights? I can see it now: Trump International Resort, Golf Club, and Military Base.

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  5. teve tory says:

    If they’re going to pay the cash directly to Trump, they’re overpaying. China got the ZTE deal for less than $500 million.

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  6. Slugger says:

    The US spent around $597 billion in fiscal 2015. A payment of two billion dollars is a drop in the bucket. We should carefully analyze the world situation and war-game almost every conceivable eventuality on a frequent basis. We should then site our military assets on the basis of America’s security needs. I understand Poland’s historic and current reasons for worrying about the Russians, but we cannot put our security needs up for sale. In view of the staggering numbersof casualties produced by war in Poland during the last century, minimizing the risk of war is a high priority. I don’t want to pay 100,000 KIA for $2 billion.
    The US has not disarmed. MAD is still on the table.

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  7. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    Let’s not forget the 13 new trademarks Ivanka won from China over the past 3 months.

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  8. Mu says:

    The problem for Poland is that what’s good for the defense of Poland isn’t good for the defense of NATO, and vise versa. NATO should defend along the Vistula, and falling back to the Oder. But that leaves Poland half conquered on the first line, fully on the second. So they really want to get some US troops on the east of the Vistula, preferably in the Bialystok area, to force NATO to take a forward stand.
    Having lived 20 miles east of the first “planed line” of NATA defenses, I can see their point. It sure isn’t in the US interest so.,

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  9. al Ameda says:

    America should pay Poland for the right to have an airbase in their country. Trump could see this as a branding opportunity, “Trump AFB,” in bronze lettering across the base entrance of course.

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  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @TM01: Since it involves something that would make Trump Enterprises’ corporate sponsor upset, we probably don’t need to worry about what it means because it’s not likely to happen.

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  11. gVOR08 says:

    If we put a base there, Poland will be the critical strategic crossroads of Europe. We declare every place we intervene to be the critical strategic point of wherever, I think even Grenada.

    Poland may not be the militarily correct place for an armored division, but some trip wire force makes sense. NATO is supposed to be committed to 100% defense of each member. If we’re not committed, if we’re going to regard Poland, and others, as buffer states, we shouldn’t be pretending they’re in NATO. Russia’s not going to be deterred unless we back up our rhetoric. The Poles may be.probing the genuineness of our commitment in the age of Trump. If we don’t put something on the line, they’ll have to re-evaluate their position.

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  12. michael reynolds says:

    @TM01:
    Well, dude, I have never been great at algebra so I don’t know exactly how the equation runs for balancing Trump’s corrupt willingness to sell US foreign policy and his slavish devotion to his employer, Mr. Putin. You’re the cultist, why don’t you tell me? Is he more a whore or more a traitor?

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  13. michael reynolds says:

    1) 2 billion is chump change for a base. 2 billion won’t buy the PX, the bowling alley and a pair of hangers.

    2) Shall we put a base in the historically least defensible nation short of Belgium? Hang it out there like an easily-snapped-up bonbon for the Russians? Um. . . no. We place a very high premium on force protection and it would cost us many times 2 billion just to buy air cover.

    3) The purpose of Poland in NATO is not to stop a Russian advance but to give us a few hundred miles of open territory to bomb the sht out of Russian tank columns on their way to Germany.

    4) The Polish government is anti-semitic and increasingly undemocratic and fascistic. So screw ’em. They can go right on being NATO’s moat.

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  14. Kathy says:

    Well, clearly Cheeto Benito ought to uncritically accept Poland’s offer, despite of what the Secretary of Defense and/or the NATO allies think, just to show everyone he’s not Putin’s puppet.

    If it gets to be a problem, or more precisely cause the awful problem of press criticism of Mangolini, he can always blame it on Obama and break the deal.

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  15. Mr. Prosser says:

    @michael reynolds: 4) The Polish government is anti-semitic and increasingly undemocratic and fascistic. So screw ’em. They can go right on being NATO’s moat. – Agreed

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  16. Mu says:

    @michael reynolds:
    – Is he more a whore or more a traitor?
    – NATO’s moat

    You’re in a fine prose form today 🙂

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  17. An Interested Party says:

    Is he more a whore or more a traitor?

    In any given moment, it is whatever will sate his ego the most…

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