Moscow has expressed its concern over NATO’s military infrastructure that has been built adjacent to the Russian border. On May 28, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared that Russia is prepared to take appropriate measures in response. That statement was a reaction to Warsaw’s plans to host a permanent US military presence on its territory. Russian lawmakers point out that this would move Poland to the top of Russia’s list of military targets.
That deployment would breach the Russia-NATO Founding Act (1997), in which NATO pledged not to seek “additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces” inside Russia’s neighbors “in the current and foreseeable security environment.” It’s hardly a coincidence that the news went public before the NATO-Russia Council meeting scheduled for May 31.
According to Politico, Poland wants a US armored division permanently deployed on its soil. It is willing to pay $2 billion to help construct the installation. Five possible sites in northern Poland have been offered for consideration. The draft proposal comes just a little more than a month before a NATO summit that will be held July 11-12 in Brussels.
The issue of a permanent base had probably been previously discussed behind closed doors. According to the defense draft budget for fiscal 2019, the US Senate Armed Services Committee has already asked the defense secretary to assess the cost of a permanent presence in Poland.
America’s military, as well as the personnel of other NATO countries, are stationed in the country on a rotating basis but Warsaw doesn’t think that’s enough. Poland is one of just five bloc members that spend at least two percent of its national GDP on defense. The move dovetails with President Trump’s policy of making other nations pay for US protection. This could be just the beginning, with other countries eager for the American umbrella following suit and starting to negotiate by offering financial proposals that turn military-political agreements into commercial deals.
Meanwhile, work is in full swing to construct a new storage site and warehouse facility in Powidz , which will become a NATO hub for the Baltics and all of Northern Europe. A year ago, the US Army Europe established a new tactical headquarters in Poznan to control the rotating American forces in Eastern and Northern Europe. Poland and the Baltic States have reached an agreement to link Poland, Finland, and the Baltic States with the unified Trans-European Transport Network, which is crucial for the free movement of those forces. This “Rail Baltica,” stretching from Tallinn to Warsaw via Kaunas and Riga, is a key element of NATO’s infrastructure modernization.
According to Lieutenant General (ret.) Ben Hodges, former Commander of US Army Europe, “Any contingency we have to deal with, we’ll almost certainly have to come through Poland,” as that country has become the “center of the center of gravity” for the American military.
Poland will be increasing the size of its army by at least 50% in the coming years (from about 95,000 to 150,000). There are plans for three new brigades to be deployed on the eastern flank. No to be alarmist, but the fact that Poland has shifted its best military forces eastward, including its most modern tanks, has not gone unnoticed in Russia. The long-term modernization program provides for new air-defense systems, aircraft, ballistic missiles, submarines, self-propelled howitzers and around 1,200 drones, at least 1,000 of which are expected to be armed. The US Patriot PAC-3 will become the backbone of the Polish national air-defense system.
Poland has signed a contract with the US to acquire 70 AGM-158B JASSM-ER air-to-surface missiles by 2020 or a bit earlier. This is a first-strike stealth weapon with a range of roughly 1,000 km and a penetrating warhead capable of striking key stationary infrastructure sites inside Russian territory, including the Iskander short-range surface-to-surface missiles deployed in the Kaliningrad region.
In November, Poland will host Anakonda 2018, a truly massive NATO military exercise. It will involve about 100,000 troops, 5,000 vehicles, 150 aircraft, and 45 warships, all assembled to practice offensive operations against Russia.
The Intermarium (Intersea) political project to create a cordon sanitaire between Germany and Russia that would protect the integrity of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe is still very much alive in Poland and influencing the mindset of those who shape Warsaw’s foreign policy. Josef Pilsudski, who led the country after WWI, made an unsuccessful effort to get that project off the ground. The plan was to create an anti-Russian alliance that would be sponsored by Poland, include the Baltic States, Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia, and stretch between the Adriatic, Baltic, and Black Seas.
In 2005, Jaroslaw Leszczynski, came up with the idea to establish the Fourth Polish Republic — a transborder common space shared by Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania and modeled on the Rzeczpospolita. The prospects for forming a kind of association of Central and East European states united by their anti-Russian policies were discussed last year at a forum for the former presidents of Poland, Ukraine, Moldova, and the Baltic States that was held March 9-10 in Kaunas. President Trump’s visit to Warsaw in 2017 stirred up the Intermarium debates.
Poland, along with the Baltic States, has become a kind of mini-East European NATO, which is 100% pro-American and willing to become a base of operations for threatening Russia. That country has become the fiercest opponent of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project that would supply Europe with cheap Russian gas, while offering itself as the hub for more expensive supplies entering Eastern Europe from the US.
Meanwhile, the EU-Poland rift is growing. Polexit is a possibility. Europe is in revolt against US domination. Because of the country’s ambitions and dreams of power, Warsaw is seeking its own piece of the global pie, dreaming of becoming a vertex of power in the erroneous belief that dancing to the US tune is the way to achieve this goal. It could end up breaking with Europe, only to find itself faced with a cold shoulder from the US when Poland is no longer needed. Then Warsaw would have to deal with Russia — a relationship it sacrificed for the sake of cozying up to America. In order to enjoy a high international standing one must have an independent foreign policy, not kowtow to other states, no matter how powerful they might be.