‘Fort Trump’ proposal in Poland likely to fuel NATO-Russia tensions

19 September 2018

President Donald Trump said on 18 September that the United States is considering a request from Poland for a permanent US military presence in the country. According to reports, Polish President Andrzej Duda asked Trump for a permanent US base during a White House meeting, offering to name it ‘Fort Trump’, and explaining it would be a buttress against what he considers a threat from Russia. Trump said he agreed with Duda that Moscow had "acted aggressively" in the region and said the request for a base was under consideration. Poland has offered to put more than $2 billion into the project.

Moscow expressed concern in May when the Polish defence ministry proposal, drafted by senior ministry officials and a group of Polish military officers, first came to light. “This proposal outlines the clear and present need for a permanent US armoured 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 US forces”, the Polish defence ministry document states. It adds that Warsaw is committed “to share the burden of defence spending, make the decision more cost-effective for the US government and allay any concerns for Congress in uncertain budgetary times”. The United States (and NATO) currently rotates troops through Poland temporarily but permanently stationing forces there would be expensive because of costs that can include housing for families, schools and hospitals. Moscow warned in May that NATO's eastward expansion would undermine stability in Europe.

Poland has also been modernizing its military forces and in March signed the largest weapons deal in the country’s history: a $4.75 billion deal with the US for the acquisition of Patriot soil-to-air missiles. Negotiations are ongoing for the eventual delivery of more Patriots, a 360º radar and low-cost missiles. In June, some 2,000 Special Operations forces from the United States and 10 other NATO countries carried out one of their biggest-ever military exercises in Poland and the Baltic States.

Trump and Duda also expressed shared concerns about Russia's Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany. They said it could make Europe overly reliant on Moscow for energy and expose it to the risks of what Duda called "political blackmail" over shipments. In a joint statement released after their press conference, Trump and Duda said they will continue coordinating efforts "to counter energy projects that threaten our mutual security, such as Nord Stream 2".