According to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, Polish President Andrzej Duda’s dream of “Fort Trump” in his country is very much alive.
During a White House visit in September, Duda implored President Donald Trump to work with Poland to create a permanent U.S. military base in the country and suggested the base be named after the president.
Poland, invaded by the Nazis in the early days of World War II in 1939 and occupied by the Soviet Union from 1945 through 1989, has long sought U.S. military protection from a potential Russian threat. That threat became more real following Russia’s 2014 seizure of part of Ukraine.
Mattis said Tuesday that the Polish proposal to invest $2 billion to prepare a permanent base for U.S. forces is on the table.
“We’re going to be discussing that today at length; the details. It’s obviously something we’ll discuss with all of the Allies as well. We have a very strong bilateral relationship with the Polish military, and the minister and the ministry of defense, and we’ll further discuss it when we’re in Brussels with them,” Mattis said, according to a Defense Department transcript of his remarks.
“But we’re working it out, kind of the details — not kind of. We are working out the details on what the offer is, what can best contribute to alliance unity, to alliance security and to the continued strengthening of the bilateral relationship,” he said.
Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said the proposal builds upon a strong relationship.
“We strongly appreciate the U.S. forces’ presence in Poland, strengthening deterrence and defense of Poland and the whole NATO alliance,” Blaszczak said, according to Military Times. “I hope it will transform in the coming years into an even more robust and long-term commitment.”
Trump showed interest in the idea of a permanent U.S. base in September, particularly because of Poland’s financial contribution to it.
Mattis praised Poland as “a NATO Ally … that’s actually not only meeting 2 percent going higher than 2 percent, they’ve actually invited American troops to be forward-stationed there.”
When asked about proposals for some type of European armed forces, Mattis replied, “I would just point to Poland as a role model, as an example of what democracies do as we share the burden for protecting democracy in the world. So we will continue to see the alliance strengthening, and Poland will be in the front rank of that we’re quite confident and we’ll be right beside them.”
Mattis also noted that Poland, in addition to wanting to host U.S. troops permanently, is an outstanding host to those who are already there.
“Our troops that go there re-enlist in the U.S. military at a high rate, so they must enjoy it,” he said.
Blaszczak noted that Polish freedom has been intertwined with America’s support for his nation.
“Today, we are meeting in a very special time for Poles, as we have just celebrated, on November 11, the centenary of Poland regaining its independence. We had — we have achieved this with the support of our allies. I have to mention here President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points speech delivered in 1918, in which you adhered to the necessity of reestablishing the Polish state with political and economic independence and territorial integrity. His statement is still considered as a landmark on the way to regaining our independence,” he said.
Blaszczak also noted former President Ronald Reagan’s contribution to Polish freedom.
“Poles received the unprecedented United States support also in our struggle for freedom, democracy, and total independence from Soviet Union during the Communist era. U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s adamant policy towards Soviet Union and strong support for democratic movement in Poland has been crucial to our today’s freedoms and democracy.”
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