Troops

“War is not only a matter of equipment, artillery, group troops or air force; it is largely a matter of spirit, or morale.” The words of Chinese soldier and president of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek who knew a thing or two about both. And while nobody doubts the sprit or morale of Polish forces when it comes to defending or fighting for Poland, extra materiel and troops are always welcome. Thus, Poland’s deal with the United States to bolster the U.S. military presence in Poland which, according to President Duda, will be unveiled in Washington this week.

Speaking to Reuters in advance of a trip to Washington which begins on Wednesday, Duda said that the U.S. presence in Poland so far was a “reconnaissance period”. “Today we are speaking about a strengthening of a U.S. presence and about moving into a second phase,” he said in the interview. He said that he expects a strengthening of command capabilities, logistics and special forces. “It’s an increase both in quantity and in quality.”

It seems unlikely, however, that “Fort Trump”, the new base proposed by Duda during his visit to Washington last September, and for which the Polish government offered to pay $2 billion, will be part of the package. The United States already has troops in Poland as part of a 2016 NATO agreement in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. There are currently about 4,500 U.S. troops who routinely rotate in and out of Poland.

Thus, the announcement on Wednesday, when the two presidents meet, is expected to say that 1,000 additional troops and a squadron of Reaper drones will be sent to Poland. Despite the intensive lobbying, the preliminary agreement will avoid a permanent base or presence in the country.

The new plans do call for the construction of a new combat training centre in Drawsko Pomorskie and additional facilities in the future. U.S. officials said the Reaper drones will be used to provide greater intelligence to Poland. The U.S. also expects to set up a military headquarters there.

Despite the criticism from some quarters, it seems eminently sensible that Poland is seeking to bolster security, particularly in the face of Russian military action in a neighbouring country. One might argue that it is unlikely Russia would invade the territory of Poland, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. And since the U.S. provides most of the NATO resources, it is logical to look directly to the US for additional troops.

Besides military matters, the Law and Justice government agrees with the Trump administration on many policy issues such as migration, climate change, coal mining and abortion, and scepticism of some aspects of the European Union. Indeed, as to the latter, Duda said the EU needed to re-open discussions on its treaties to change the balance of power in Brussels.

According to the president, changes should include giving national governments a greater say on overall policy to the European council, made up of national governments, and to the European Parliament, as well as to national legislatures, all at the expense of decision-making by European Commission.  “I can’t imagine [it is possible] to reform the European Union without opening the treaties,” Duda said.

It seems unlikely that there is much appetite for treaty amendment within the EU. While there seems to be a growing popular wish for change across the EU, reflected in the rise of populist parties the recent elections to the European parliament, this message has seemingly yet to be understood at the centre. Indeed, the confusion over Brexit and the fact that no other country appears willing to follow the UK down this path, has served to encourage those who think the answer is “more Europe”.

As always, the response is that those who support populist parties are wrong and the EU “project” must continue on its merry way, oblivious to the genuine concerns of the many for whom current arrangements, particularly the economic effects of the Euro on countries such as Greece, are far from ideal. Put simply, a currency union requires a fiscal union which requires a political union. And it appears there is no real desire for that across the EU as a whole. Be that as it may, it seems that the fighting spirit of the current Polish government, whether seeking more military support from the U.S., or whether persuading the EU of its point of view, is undiminished.

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