President Trump campaigned on a platform of “America first,” which included adding pressure on European allies to begin meeting their financial obligations to the NATO alliance. While Trump was certainly not the first president to harp on what the United States often refers to as “burden sharing” among its allies, his rhetoric appears to have been taken more seriously than his predecessors. Members of the European Union have since begun discussing establishing a joint European defense force — one that wouldn’t need to rely on American military might to defend against potential threats posed by Russia and other global players.
However, despite a renewed fervor for military independence among some European leaders, Poland has been leaning the other way, doubling down their commitment to strengthening ties with the United States military and emphasizing their willingess to maintain a permanent U.S. military presence within their borders. In fact, Polish President Andrzej Duda is so eager to ensure American forces protect his nation’s sovereignty that he has promised a massive $2 billion for the establishment of a permanent military installation.
And knowing the American president’s proclivity for branding, Duda has even proposed a name for this installation: “Fort Trump.”
“I invite you to post more American military troops in Poland,” Duda said to Donald Trump, calling an American presence in his nation a “guarantor of security.”
Poland has seen an uptick in NATO forces present within their borders since Russia’s military annexation of Crimea in 2014, particularly because of their northern border with Lithuania commonly referred to as the Suwalki Gap. As NEWSREP has posited before, a Russian incursion of the Suwalki Gap launched from the Russian satellite of Kaliningrad to the West and Russian ally Belarus to the East would be nearly impossible to prevent thanks to the the limited number of NATO forces in the region and the comparatively tiny stretch of territory connecting Poland to the Baltic states to the north. By capturing a stretch of territory a bit longer than 60 miles, Russia could isolate the Baltics and turn Poland into the front line of a war for Europe — assuming of course a massive NATO/Russian conflict were ever to break out.
It seems reasonable that President Duda recognizes the likelihood that Poland would be the site of some of the earliest fighting in a new World War if ever one were to start, and there’s no way to deny a permanent U.S. military installation inside Poland would guarantee greater American support than the nation currently accepts through NATO cooperation.
The problem for the Trump administration, of course, is balancing the political platforms that earned Trump loyalty with his voting base. Building a new military installation on European soil meant to serve as a duty station rather than a deployment would certainly run counter to his “America first” rhetoric and his calls on Europe to develop a greater level of autonomy in their own defense. Accepting a $2 billion offer to build a base with his own name on it could be seen as a sign that Trump’s willingness to defend Europe with American lives can be swayed for the right price — which won’t sit well among some conservatives that would like to see a reduction in Europe’s reliance on U.S. might.
Though, based on Trump’s recent statements, it would seem he’s not entirely opposed to the idea of the United States military offering protection to the highest bidder.
“He would pay the United States, meaning Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base,” Trump said to reporters about the Polish offer. “We’re looking at that more and more from the standpoint of defending really wealthy countries.”
It is not at all uncommon for host nations to foot a portion of the bill when it comes to establishing American military installations on foreign soil. The benefits are mutual — the United States is granted a new strategic foothold in a region of the world, permitting it increased access and greater diplomatic leverage in the region. In exchange, host countries benefit from the added security allotted from the presence of the most powerful military force the world has ever seen. The premise, then, isn’t a particularly new one… but it’s the marketing of this endeavor that gives a sense of “security for sale.” America’s Armed Forces can not and should not be seen as a mercenary force able to provide protection only to nations with deep enough pockets to solicit it.
A permanent U.S. military installation in Poland could offer benefits to both nations, but both nation’s leaders need to consider the ways their discussions can affect perceptions. America, it could be argued, has always been in the “business” of foreign defense — but ideological common ground and mutual support in the face of a threat needs to remain the focus, not an exchange of currency.