Permanent US Army in Poland? Poles Sure Want It!
Creston Scheel is a guest writer on Blake's Take. Creston is from Northern Michigan and currently resides in Tacoma, WA. He's worked in political and housing consulting, and has 4 years of experience in military intelligence. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics from the University of Washington.
Like most Americans, when I think of Poland, I think of pierogi and sausage. When Poland thinks of America though, their minds aren’t on food but security.
Poland’s Defense Ministry has put together a proposal for the US Army to permanently station an Armored Brigade (roughly under 5000 personnel including 90 Abrams tanks and 200 assorted armored infantry vehicles) inside Poland and they are willing to put $2 Billion down and share maintenance and upkeep costs to have it appeal to those concerned about the present state of the US budget.
Should the US work with Poland to make this agreement or a variation a reality?
Poland has had a long history of domination from Germans and Russians, the latter of which has annexed lands of neighbors and is supporting separationist elements in several Eastern European and Caucasus countries in the last decade. It is no wonder that Poland is has a growing fear of Russia turning their eyes on the Poles. And as many European nations such as Germany and Italy argue for closer relations to Putin, Poland may feel isolated against a renewed Russia, especially as the closest permanent US presence lies in Germany.
Enter the United States. A NATO ally that has kept its commitment and currently rotates its military forces in and out of Poland and the Baltics a show of solidarity and warning to the Russians. For Poland this may not seem enough as any distraction or crisis to the US can all too easily peel away these temporary forces.
Not A Free Ride
Though it may sound like they’re a helpless victim in waiting, this is not so. Poland has embarked on a massive military modernization program and is one of only a handful of NATO nations that spends 2% or more of its GDP on defense. They will double the size of their Army by 2025 and are acquiring modern equipment at a striking pace from tanks to helicopters to missile defense. Poland is taking measures to guarantee the best defense against possible Russian aggression as possible. Poland is willing to not only take matters into their own hands but act as a partner.
Though this proposal originates from the Defense Ministry, many in the Polish Government were caught by surprise including the Polish Foreign Ministry and even Poland’s President. Though the President does not lead the Government, his duties include being the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the military, and ratifier of treaties and agreements between Poland and other nations. Bypassing crucial elements in the government may have cost the political support necessary for this proposal to be made a reality. Yet it is still unknown whether the President will ultimately support this proposal.
Poland is one of the few allies in the region to take its defense and commitment to regional security seriously. Hitting the NATO defense spending target and willingness to absorb costs of hosting a permanent US Army presence proves to me that this is not another foray into assisting an unwilling or resentful partner but instead an ally with an overwhelming positive approval rating of the United States. If the US is serious about limiting costs while accomplishing the missions of assisting allies and ensuring regional security, then why not take up this generous offer?