June 10, 2019 / 5:40 PM / 4 months ago

Poland to announce deal on U.S. military boost: president

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will unveil a deal with Washington this week to bolster the U.S. military presence there, expecting more troops, command and logistics capability, though not quite a single big “Fort Trump” as Warsaw floated last year, President Andrzej Duda said.

FILE PHOTO: Poland's President Andrzej Duda speaks during a summit of eastern NATO countries in Kosice, Slovakia, February 28, 2019. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Warsaw’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government has sought more U.S. involvement in Poland since coming to power in 2015, as part of its effort to deter potential aggression from an increasingly emboldened Russia.

When Duda was last in the United States in September, he proposed naming a new base after U.S. President Donald Trump and providing $2 billion in funding for it.

The United States already has troops in Poland as part of a 2016 agreement with the NATO military alliance in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Poland’s eastern neighbor Ukraine in 2014.

The PiS has positioned itself as an ally of the U.S. administration at a time when other EU countries are wary of Trump and Poland faces mounting isolation within the EU over disagreements about its adherence to rule-of-law standards.

Speaking with Reuters ahead of a trip to Washington starting on Wednesday, Duda said the U.S. presence so far in Poland 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, which was conducted on Friday for publication on Monday by prior agreement with the president’s office.

He said he expects a strengthening of command capabilities, logistics and special forces. “It’s an increase both in quantity and in quality.” A landing strip for drones was also under discussion, he added.

During his upcoming meeting with Trump, a political agreement will be announced, while technical negotiations will continue, presidential aide Krzysztof Szczerski told reporters on Monday.

Officials previously told Reuters that disagreement remained largely around who would pay for what, with Poland reluctant to shoulder the majority of the personnel support costs of a new base. Duda said talks on cost-sharing remain open.

“It’s obvious to us that if our security is being strengthened then we absolutely participate in the cost. The percentage is being discussed but it’s a bone of contention,” he said.

Duda said he had invited Trump to participate in Poland’s commemoration on Sept. 1 of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi German invasion that marked the outbreak of World War Two.

“We do not have any information that Mr. President is not coming ... I assume he is,” Duda said.

Poland’s eurosceptic administration agrees with Trump on issues such as migration, climate change, coal mining and abortion. Both also share a tense relationship with the EU.

Responding to last month’s election to the European Parliament which has shaken centrist groupings’ grip on power, Duda said the bloc needed to reopen discussions on its treaties to change the balance of power in Brussels.

Changes should include giving more say over overall policy to the council of national governments and the European Parliament, as well as national legislatures, at the expense of decision-making at the European Commission, the EU executive.

“I can’t imagine (it’s possible) to reform the European Union without opening the treaties,” Duda said.

Reporting and editing by Justyna Pawlak, Additional reporting by Alicja Ptak and Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Peter Graff

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