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US sending more troops to Poland in a move likely to anger Russia

David S. Cloud, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump said Wednesday that as many as 2,000 additional troops would be sent to Poland, deepening the U.S. military presence near Russia's border after Polish President Andrzej Duda made an unusually public effort to woo Trump.

The move likely will intensify complaints from Moscow that by adding troops, along with a missile-defense site the Pentagon is building in Poland, the U.S. and NATO are taking a more aggressive posture in Central Europe. Poland joined NATO in 1999.

Trump told reporters while meeting with Duda in the Oval Office that the details were still being worked out.

But the decision highlights the benefits of Warsaw's aggressive courting of Trump, who said the troops were likely to be moved from Germany, a NATO ally and home to roughly 33,000 U.S. troops. Trump has long criticized Germany for not spending enough on defense.

The U.S. is "talking about 2,000 troops, taking them from Germany or moving them from another location," Trump said.

The troop agreement falls short of Poland's goal of securing a permanent base for an entire U.S. division -- dubbed "Fort Trump" by Duda when he proposed it last September in the Oval Office.

The additional forces, which are likely to include a squadron of U.S. Reaper drones, would augment about 4,000 U.S. troops who currently rotate in and out of Poland, along with troops from other NATO allies.

Trump declined to say whether there would be a permanent U.S. presence in Poland, a sensitive issue with Moscow and within NATO, saying he didn't want to "talk about permanence or nonpermanence."

 

A new military facility would be built in Poland that "would be world class," Trump said. Asked about the possibility of a U.S. military base in Poland, he added, "this would certainly be a statement that the U.S. would be making."

Trump and Duda's White House ceremony featured a flyover of two F-35 fighters, the stealthy U.S.-built fighters that Poland, in another gesture to Trump, has said it plans to purchase.

The cost of moving the additional forces to Poland and the new facility Trump referred to was unclear. Nor did he disclose whether the facility would be built at U.S. or Poland's expense.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

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