Trump Open to Proposed 'Fort Trump' in Poland

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President Donald Trump shakes hands with Polish President Andrzej Duda, during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Sept. 18, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) -- The Associated Press

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Polish counterpart said Tuesday they are exploring setting up a permanent U.S. military base in Poland, which could be named "Fort Trump."

Poland has long sought to have the U.S. bolster its presence in Eastern Europe as a counter to Russia, and Polish President Andrzej Duda said at the White House that the base could be called "Fort Trump" if that would speed the process.

At a joint news conference with Duda, Trump said he is open to the idea if Poland comes up with the money to offset the cost. "Poland is willing to make a very major contribution to the United States to come in and have a presence in Poland. If they're willing to do that, it's something we will certainly talk about."

In his remarks, Duda said, "I would very much like to ask to set up a permanent American base in Poland, which we would call 'Fort Trump.' I firmly believe this is possible. I am convinced that such a decision lies in the Polish interest and in the interest of the United States."

Duda's praise of Trump is in line with Warsaw's stance on mutual defense, which has stood apart from other NATO member states in their sometimes contentious dealings with the U.S. administration.

France and Germany have at times responded in kind to Trump's harsh criticism of alliance members for failing to spend more on defense, but Polish officials, for the most part, have been consistent in their praise of Trump in an effort to get more U.S. support.

They are also well aware of Trump's proclivity for naming projects after himself.

Duda said that a "Fort Trump" and an increase in U.S. military presence in the region "is absolutely justified" as a deterrent to Russia, whose troops have been increasingly active on NATO's borders.

"I am convinced there is no more effective method of preventing a war than a decisive stance illustrating that we are ready at any moment to repel possible attack," Duda said.

Trump seemed to be particularly intrigued by the possibility of getting upwards of $2 billion in Polish funding for the proposal.

"Poland would be paying billions of dollars for a base," Trump said. "The [Polish] president offered us much more than $2 billion, so we're looking at it."

Since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and followed that up with military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Poland has welcomed rotational U.S. and NATO deployments to Poland and the Baltic states, and pressed for more.

In the most recent deployment, the U.S. Air Force last month sent five F-22 Raptors and 40 airmen to Poland to take part in joint exercises aimed at deterring Russian air incursions.

At the White House, Trump and Duda did not go into what types of troops and assets might be deployed to a "Fort Trump" in Poland.

While Poland has been advocating for a permanent U.S. base on its territory, Moscow has been warning that it would respond aggressively to such a presence.

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges was an advocate for boosting the U.S. military presence while he served as commander of U.S. Army Europe, but he also cautioned that a permanent U.S. base in Poland had a downside.

"It would give Moscow an easy opportunity to claim that NATO is an aggressor and to somehow respond to protect Russian sovereignty," Hodges told Politico in June.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com.

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