President Trump laid out his rationale while hosting his Polish counterpart at the White House. President Andrzej Duda who is allied with the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) was on his third visit to the White House this week since Donald Trump took office. He is the first foreign leader to be received in Pennsylvania Avenue since the pandemic lockdown.
For such an honor, Trump readily explained that the purpose of his Polish embrace was to spite both Germany and Russia. He confirmed the planned removal of U.S. troops from German soil, which he announced last week, and said some of those units would be going to Poland.
“We’re going to be reducing our forces in Germany. Some will be coming home and some will be going to other places, but Poland would be one of those other places,” said Trump at a press briefing at the White House with Duda.
He said that would send “a very strong signal to Russia”.
The Kremlin responded that such a move would violate the 1997 Russia-NATO Founding Act. Moscow has previously protested deployment of U.S. troops in Poland on a rotational basis. Now the American forces seem to be setting up permanent bases.
Trump repeated his accusation that Germany was “delinquent” in its military spending on the NATO alliance.
“Poland is one of the few countries that are fulfilling their obligations under NATO, in particular their monetary obligations,” said Trump.
“And they asked us if we would send some additional troops. They’re going to pay for that. They’ll be paying for the sending of additional troops, and we’’ll probably be moving them from Germany to Poland. We’re going to be reducing Germany very substantially.”
The American president was referring to an arbitrary spending target of 2 per cent of national economy for NATO members. Germany allocates about 1.3 per cent, although it has dramatically increased its military spending over the past two years. However, that is still not enough for Trump who has repeatedly chided Berlin for seeking protection from the U.S. while allegedly not paying its dues.
Poland is one of eight NATO members in the 30-nation military alliance that does meet the 2 per cent spending target, although in absolute monetary terms its annual military budget is only about a quarter of Germany’s ($50 billion).
Trump is also known to have a sour relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her refusal in May to attend a proposed G7 summit in Washington was seen as a snub to Trump. Tellingly, his surprise move to pull U.S. troops out of Germany then followed that spat.
The initial White House report to withdraw some 9,5000 American soldiers stationed in Germany out of a total of 35,000 blindsided politicians in Berlin. The Pentagon also seemed to not have been consulted by Trump. The hasty move smacked of vindictiveness by Trump, intent on insulting the Germans. Certainly, the horrified reaction from the Berlin establishment showed that Trump had hit where it hurts.
Hosting the Polish president at the White House this week and moving ahead with the proposed U.S. troop relocation is further rubbing Germany’s nose by Trump. The two leaders signed a “defense cooperation agreement”.
“Today we are entering another stage, namely there is a possibility of further increase in American troops in our country,” Duda said.
It’s not clear exactly how many U.S. forces are heading to Poland. Reports indicate it could be about 2,000 troops as well as up to 30 F-16 fighter jets. That’s still a lot less than the number Trump is planning to pull out of Germany. Nevertheless, it is hugely symbolic.
Germany was traditionally the European base for U.S. forces since the end of World War Two. Poland, a former Warsaw Pact member, then joined the U.S.-led alliance in 1999 following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Twenty years later, it is set to host U.S. troops in permanent bases. Trump’s cozying up to Warsaw is therefore grooming Poland as the new European base for American forces. (Whether the Pentagon buys into that in the long-term is another question.)
The Law and Justice (PiS) government in Poland together with President Duda have long appealed to Washington to station U.S. troops in their country. That appeal fits their intensely Russophobic narrative accusing Russia of “aggression”. Duda and PiS have set about rewriting the history of World War Two in which Nazi Germany is equated with the Soviet Union. The defeat of the Nazi Reich by the Red Army and liberation of Poland and other nations is furiously denied by the Warsaw government.
Trump has very much played into that discreditable narrative. In a speech delivered in Warsaw in July, 2017, Trump conflated Nazi occupation with claims of the Soviet Union’s “brutal campaign to demolish freedom”.
By sending U.S. troops and warplanes to bases in Poland which borders Russia’s territory of Kaliningrad, Trump is indulging Warsaw’s persecution complex about alleged Russian aggression. Last month, Poland officially declared Russia as its “biggest security threat”.
The added rationale for Trump’s troop maneuver appears to be his umbrage over Germany buying much of its energy supply from Russia instead of from the U.S. He pointedly linked the relocation of American troops from Germany to Poland with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
“It sends a very strong signal to Russia, but I think a stronger signal sent to Russia is the fact that Germany is paying Russia billions of dollars to purchase energy from Russia through the pipeline.”
However, he added:
“With all that being said, we expect to get along with Russia. We expect to get along with everybody.”
The Kremlin warned earlier this month against additional U.S. forces going to Poland. “Whatever military potentially ends up threatening us from Polish territory, the relevant Russian government structures will take comprehensive measures in response,” said deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov.
Trump is foolishly toying with strategic interests for short-term tactical gains and petty vanity. He is pandering to Polish reactionary politics to offend both Germany and Russia. But this president doesn’t have a clue about the monster of reactionary forces in Poland that he is fomenting. His instinctive money-grubbing rush for profit and petty score-settling is massively destabilizing European security. Yet, as he idiotically says, “we expect to get along with everybody”.
Now, that is really taking the…