Poland and the U.S. have reached the Enhanced Cooperation Agreement. Under it, 5,500 U.S. troops will be stationed at bases in Poland; the Polish will bear the majority of the costs associated with the U.S. troops’ move.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the Agreement with Poland “will enhance deterrence against Russia, strengthen NATO, reassure our Allies, and our forward presence in Poland on NATO’s eastern flank will improve our strategic and operational flexibility.”
Last week, Esper had stated that relocating the Germany-based troops to Belgium, Italy, and back to the U.S. is a strategic decision that will benefit the U.S. and NATO.
However, President Trump did put the Polish in an awkward situation vis-à-vis their German allies as the increase in troops in Poland is at the cost of Germany.
President Trump did not mince words last week regarding Germany. He stated that Germany has not been living up to the agreed-upon 2 percent GDP spending on defense. He added that the U.S. was tired of being “suckers… so we’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s very simple, they’re delinquent.”
According to Pentagon spokesman LTC Thomas Campbell, the Polish government “has agreed to fund infrastructure and logistical support to U.S. forces in Poland, including the current 4,500 rotational forces and the planned increase of 1,000 additional rotational forces.”
The Polish government has released the following information regarding the U.S. troops future stations:
- Poznań has been designated as the location of the Forward Division Command and of the support group at the U.S. Army theater. (U.S. Army V Corps)
- Drawsko Pomorskie has been designated as the headquarters of the Combat Training Center for joint use by the Polish and U.S. Armed Forces.
- Wrocław-Strachowice was designated as the seat of the USAF loading and unloading airbase.
- Łask will be the seat of a squadron of remotely operated aircraft (MQ-9 drones) of the USAF.
- Powidz will house the headquarters of the Combat Aviation Brigade, a combat logistic support battalion. It will also house a special forces facility.
- Lubliniec has been designated as the seat of another special forces facility.
- Żagań/Świętoszów will house the Armored Brigade Combat Team.
While the final amounts of the costs borne by Poland have not yet been agreed to, there are already rumblings that Trump and Polish President Duda are breaking the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. According to the Founding Act, which was signed 23 years ago, NATO troops are prohibited from being permanently based in Central and Eastern European countries.
Despite Russian propaganda claiming a breach of the Founding Act and many leaders in Europe worrying about a violation of it, the relocation of troops does not run contrary to it. The Founding Act specifically prohibits permanently based NATO troops “in the current and foreseeable security environment.”
Under President Putin, Russia has frequently and continuously violated the tenets of the NATO-Russia agreement and moved far away from the cooperation and goodwill that the agreement aimed at. Several of those violations were cataloged by the Heritage Foundation in a 2016 piece.
- In 1999, Russia agreed to remove all of its troops and weaponry from Moldova by the end of 2002. Today, 2,000 Russian troops remain in the region of Transnistria.
- Since 2001, the U.S. Department of State has raised concerns with Moscow about the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Kaliningrad.
- In 2006, Russia temporarily cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine, which also reduced gas supplies to other European countries, including NATO allies.
- In 2007, Russia conducted a cyberattack against Estonia in retaliation for removing a Soviet-era war memorial, the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn.
- In 2007, Artur Chilingarov, a member of the Russian Duma, led a submarine expedition to the North Pole and planted a Russian flag on the seabed. Later, he said: “The Arctic is Russian. We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian landmass.”
- In 2008, Russia invaded the Republic of Georgia, getting to within miles of the capital. Today, Russia still occupies 20 percent of Georgia’s territory and is in violation of the 2008 ceasefire agreement.
- In 2010, Russia started to upgrade and increase the number of troops and armaments at its Gyumri base in Armenia, which borders NATO member Turkey. Today, an estimated 5,000 Russian troops with dozens of fighter planes and attack helicopters are based in Armenia.
- In 2013, two Russian bombers and four fighter jets took off from St. Petersburg and carried out what was thought to be a simulated nuclear strike against two targets in Sweden.
- In 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea and invaded part of the Donbas region of Ukraine. Moscow continues to support separatists with arms, training, and military personnel.
- In 2014, the State Department first officially accused Russia of violating the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Russia had begun to test prohibited missiles since 2008.
- In 2015, Russian Ambassador to Denmark Mikhail Vanin said during an interview, “I don’t think that Danes fully understand the consequence if Denmark joins the American-led missile defense shield. If they do, then Danish warships will be targets for Russian nuclear missiles.”
- In 2015, Russia started its encirclement of Turkey by sending thousands of troops to Syria, reinforcing the Black Sea Fleet, and increasing the number of Russian troops in Armenia. Russia is also probing Turkish airspace.
Despite the above, American newspapers are already parroting the Russian line, and many in NATO want to continue following an agreement on paper despite the Russians thumbing their nose at it.
Retired LTG Ben Hodges, who until last year was the American commander in Europe, sees both advantages and disadvantages regarding the U.S. troops’ relocation from Germany. In an interview, Hodges said that President Trump’s decision to commit more forces to Poland helps in deterring Moscow’s aggressive posture and builds up U.S. credibility. On the other hand, with Germany being a major hub for U.S. operations in the Middle East, he did not like seeing any further split with America’s long-time ally. “I think it’s a mistake to take [the troops] out of Germany to go to Poland because it will be seen as the punishment of our most important ally in Europe,” he said.
With the Poles and others who were part of the defunct Warsaw Pact now under the NATO umbrella, it is important to have a defensive deterrence in place. The Poles are acutely aware and sensitive to the number of times the Russians have invaded their country. A relatively small American footprint in Poland will not increase but reduce the possibility that any conflict with the Russians starts there.
A determined Russian assault on Poland could still push the small number of troops aside, but the relocation ensures that NATO would respond in a timely fashion. The 2018 Brussells Summit called for a timely response in the case of an attack. The NATO Readiness Initiative, the so-called “Four 30s” plan, would designate 30 ground battalions, 30 air squadrons, and 30 major naval combatants to be ready to deploy and engage an adversary within 30 days.
The Enhanced Cooperation Agreement is just the start. The states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are expected to promote and fund sustainment operations for increased U.S.-led SOF training and other rotational deployments in the Baltic region.
These moves will build deterrence and increase cost-sharing, something the current Washington administration views as critical. This will allow for not only the United States but all of NATO to have greater military capabilities and as the capacity for rapid reinforcement in the case of an attack.