The United States has sealed a defence cooperation deal with Poland that will pave the way to deploy more US troops to the Eastern European nation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak on Saturday signed the deal, called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which makes Poland a critical component of the US military presence in Europe.
“This will also strengthen the guarantee that our soldiers will stand shoulder to shoulder in the case of any kind of danger, whether it be a threat to Poland or one for the USA,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said after the ceremony.
US President Donald Trump concurred, in a statement released by the White House.
“The agreement will enhance our military cooperation and increase the United States military presence in Poland to further strengthen NATO deterrence, bolster European security, and help ensure democracy, freedom, and sovereignty,” it read.
Along with the extra troop presence, the agreement would make Poland the headquarters of the leadership of the US Army V Corps, which is primarily based in Fort Knox in Kentucky. About 200 members of that unit will now be in Poland on a rotational basis.
At present, some 4,500 US military personnel are stationed in the European NATO member nations, but there is no permanent base for them.
Poland has long pressed for a permanent presence, which it sees as a guarantee against any potential Russian aggression. Russia has criticised the planned NATO presence so near to its borders.
The US-Poland deal came two weeks after Washington announced plans to withdraw nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, redistributing about half of them to other NATO countries, including Poland, Belgium and Italy, and returning the rest to the US.
The Trump administration had repeatedly criticised Germany, one of the US’s closest allies since the second World War, saying it was not meeting its funding commitments to NATO.
“The opportunities are unlimited, the resources will be available,” Pompeo said at a news conference after the deal was signed.
“Troop levels matter … but the world has moved on, too,” Pompeo said, referring to threats posed in space, cyberspace and disinformation campaigns. He said the deal would address those threats too.
The deal would also further other aspects of US-Polish cooperation, he added, citing primarily investment and trade ties.
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz said the presence of US troops “enhances our deterrence potential because we are closer to the potential source of conflict”.
“It is important that they should be deployed here in Poland and not in Germany,” he said.
After the signing ceremony, Pompeo joined Duda and other Polish leaders at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to mark the centennial of Poland’s landmark victory against the Russian Bolsheviks in 1920 during the Polish-Soviet war.