The large NATO 'eastern flank' country of Poland now says it's "open" to hosting nuclear weapons as a deterrent against Russian aggression. A fresh weekend statement from Deputy Prime Minister of Poland Jaroslaw Kaczynski urged a tougher united Western stance against Moscow.
Specifically he said Poland stands open and ready to deploy US nuclear weapons on its soil. This is the same ruling party politician who previously called for a NATO 'peacekeeping' mission in Ukraine, which other Western leaders have rejected given it would mean a direct shooting war with Russia.
"The eastern flank must be much better protected in the future than before," Kaczynski told Germany's Welt Am Sonntag newspaper. He also explained the need for America to increase its troops presence in the region by at least half.
In perhaps the most provocative section of the interview, he said: "Let's face it: The soldiers of the U.S. nuclear power are the strongest stopping Russia from attacking NATO countries and provide us with the greatest security."
He went to comment the following on tactical nukes on Polish soil, as reported in Newsweek:
Asked if he thought the U.S. should deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Eastern Europe, Kaczynski said he had discussed the idea with American senators while still in opposition with his Law and Justice Party.
"Back then, they thought it was possible. If the Americans asked us to store American nuclear weapons in Poland, we would be open to it," Kaczynski told Welt Am Sonntag.
He explained the rationale by saying "This would significantly strengthen deterrence [against Moscow]... At the moment, this issue does not arise, but it may change soon. The initiative would have to come from the Americans. In principle, however, it makes sense to extend nuclear weapons sharing to the eastern flank."
Addressing the US troop presence, he said, "Poland would be pleased if the Americans increased their presence in Europe from the current 100,000 soldiers up to 150,000 in the future due to Russia's increasing aggressiveness."
The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has estimated that NATO currently has about 100 US nuclear weapons in Europe, which it says is "stored in five NATO member states across six bases: Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel Air Base in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi Air Bases in Italy, Volkel Air Base in the Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey."
Moving any of these into Poland, just across the border from where the Russian military is operating in Ukraine - and so close to what Moscow sees as its own 'backyard' - would certainly result in Russia escalating its own nuclear posture. A big part of Russia-NATO tensions underlying the current Ukraine crisis is precisely related to missile placement in Europe, with both sides having expressed a prior desire to work out an agreement, but which now looks more distant than ever.