American Military Bases in Poland
The Polish position toward the proposed U.S. military bases is mostly positive on the political and military level but somewhat mixed among its population. As a fairly new member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Poland is eager to participate in projects, exercises, and military actions alongside its new allies, especially the United States. The question of the Missile Defense System and the required facilities on the territory of Poland became a hot topic between Poland, NATO, the United States, European Union, Russia, and China. The biggest point of contention on the subject exists between the Unites States and Poland, and its one time Cold War adversary, Russia. In addition, Poland’s history of Soviet occupation and the existence of Red Army military bases in the past brings about caution and suspicion among many Poles.
The geopolitical reality of central Europe forms the key to Poland’s stormy history and frequent conflict with other Slavs, Swedes and Germans. As the organization of the state system and the balance of power was shifting at the end of the18th century, the Prussian, Austrian and Russian dynasties made common cause against Poland and the Kingdom of Poland ceased to exist as a state.19 Poland was erased from the map of Europe until the end of the Great War.
Unlike the previous two episodes of the occupation and presence of foreign military in Poland, in 1944-45, the occupiers were supposed to be friends. After the defeat of the Nazi Germany the Soviet Union proclaimed itself a friend and ally of Poland among other countries in Eastern Europe. On 23 October 1957 both sides signed an agreement which delineated among other things the number of Soviet personnel to be stationed in Poland (maximum of 66,000), locations (39 sites) for the personnel.
Many Polish citizens see any permanent military presence in Poland as a remainder of the past. However, they are in the minority when it comes to NATO and/or United States military forces. The threat from the East is still the number one concern among Poles, and many see the possible future presence of allied military forces on the territory of the Republic of Poland as a guarantee of the common defense described in the Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Since the beginning of 2017, American branches have come to Poland. However, there was no absolute certainty as to the permanent nature of the presence of US units. Both in the opinion of the Polish government as well as experts and public opinion, the US military presence in Poland (and at the same time the arrival of forces from other allied states and the placement of several NATO structures) is seen as a significant strengthening of the eastern flank of the Euro-Atlantic area and as a deterrent to the potential enemy from the attack.
However, it is not necessarily considered sufficient to protect the territory. The decision of Washington, thanks to which the Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) supported by the Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) and logistic subunits was taken during the presidency of Democrat Barack Obama. Meanwhile, taking into account the unformulated policy of the Republican administration led by President Donald Trump to NATO and involvement in the security of Europe, modifications were expected.
Another - rather constant - element of the American presence important for the defense of Poland and part of Europe is the US base being created in Redzików, integrated with the allied ballistic missile protection system.
The forces of the United States deployed at the eastern borders of the area covered by security guarantees resulting from the North Atlantic Treaty are particularly important not only in the situation of contemporary threats to Poland's security (especially in the most sensitive areas) and its neighbors - the three Baltic states. Several other aspects also count, such as the emergence of military infrastructure in the eastern part of the allied area with the US, thanks to which the former feeling of being a second-class NATO member is disappearing in Poland. This promotes better interoperability between US troops and Polish troops achieved during the exercise, transport, and transfer of heavy equipment, such as roads in the area of the Suwalki Gap.
The American military presence is "two-part". This means that some of the forces are deployed here on the basis of decisions only by the US administration, albeit part of the NATO policy, and another part within the allied forces.
The Minister of National Defense consistently strives to increase Poland's defense capabilities and undertakes activities aimed at strengthening the presence of US troops in our country. From January 2018, from the moment he took over the minister's portfolio, he met in Washington many times with the leaders in the White House and Congress and the head of the Pentagon.
In the case of American vehicles on Polish roads, a parliamentary interpellation was submitted, to which the Secretary of State in the Defense Ministry Bartosz Kownacki replied. He informed that the basic documents regulating issues related to the stay of the armed forces of the United States of America on the territory of the Republic of Poland are the Agreement between States Parties to the North Atlantic Treaty regarding the status of their armed forces - NATO SOFA and the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Poland and the Government of the United States of America on the status of armed forces Of the United States of America on the territory of the Republic of Poland, signed in Warsaw on December 11, 2009 - SOFA Supplemental. Article 10 of this document provides for the release of US military vehicles to use in the territory of the Republic of Poland and defines the conditions, on which the authorities of the Republic of Poland recognize this admission.
A former commander of the US Army Europe General Frederick Benjamin “Ben” Hodges has voiced his opposition to Polish government plans to create a permanent US Army base. In a June 2018 article for American journal Politico, General Hodges vehemently disagreed with a recent Polish government plan to invest USD 2 bln (EUR 1.72 billion) to deploy a permanent US armored division on its soil. “What makes NATO the most successful military alliance in history is the cohesion of its members. Any policy that risks undermining that should be examined with a highly critical eye. Establishing a permanent U.S. military presence in Poland ... is exactly one of those cases,” General Hodges writes.
He called the establishment of a permanent US base anywhere in eastern or central Europe “unnecessarily provocative”. He goes on to claim that it would give Moscow an “easy opportunity to claim that NATO is an aggressor and to somehow respond to protect Russian sovereignty,” referring to the 1997 NATO-Russia Found Act, a roadmap for security cooperation between the two entities, which, in the General’s opinion, Moscow would claim was violated.
On 01 March 2019, the Air Force declared the 52nd Expeditionary Operations Group Detachment 2 fully operational from its home at Miroslawiec Air Base, Poland.
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