Poland set to get F-35 jets and more US troops but ‘Ft....

Poland set to get F-35 jets and more US troops but ‘Ft. Trump’ remains coy

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Soldiers aboard Army M1A2 Abrams tanks move out during an initial ready task force exercise at Johanna Range near Zagan, Poland, May 20, 2019. (Army photo by Sgt Thomas Mort)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is planning to add 1,000 more troops to those being rotated as part of the NATO footprint in Poland, a move that is likely to be a precursor to a more expanded U.S. military presence in the central European nation.

Pentagon officials and others, speaking ahead of a meeting between top U.S. and Polish officials this week, confirmed the boost in troops but would not confirm reports that a permanent U.S. military base will be established in Poland.

“We are not going into details,” one senior official told defense reporters on Tuesday during a background briefing on the telephone. He said there will be “a significant announcement” Wednesday by President Donald Trump on the issue.

“Don’t want to steal the president’s thunder for that,” another senior official said. “You should look forward to hearing what he has to say.”

Poland also has requested to buy 32 F-35 jet fighters, a request that the U.S. officials said is expected to be approved.

That announcement is expected when Polish President Andrzej Duda meets with Trump on Wednesday in Washington.

Ahead of that visit, Polish Minister of National Defense Mariusz Błaszczak met today with Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, at the Pentagon.

On Monday an aide to Duda, Krzysztof Szczerski, told reporters that negotiations over an increased U.S. military presence in Poland — along with a formal base dubbed “Fort Trump” — were agreed upon. U.S. troops in Poland number roughly 4,000, in a rotational system.

Under a new agreement, any new forces may be based at existing facilities instead of a new U.S. base, some officials told TMN.

In theory, any additional non-combat troops would not violate the 1997 Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and Russia, which forbids the permanent basing of NATO troops in former Warsaw Pact countries.

Asked by TMN if additional troops would violate the Founding Act, one of senior officials on the background briefing said, “Tomorrow’s announcement will be completely consistent with the commitments we’ve made at NATO.”

Shanahan told Pentagon reporters that, “We’re not announcing any troop movements today” and “Well, that’s a great question” when asked about Fort Trump.

“Why don’t we let President Trump make any announcement like that,” he said.

Blaszczak was asked, “What kind of reaction from Russia do you expect after tomorrow after the announcements from the presidents of Poland and the United States?”

He replied, “We will answer this question tomorrow.”

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