President Trump met with his first foreign leader since February on 24 June, welcoming Polish President Andrzej Duda to the White House.
Both politicians are fighting for reelection – Duda in late June, Trump in November. For Duda, strong ties with the US have been a crucial element of his foreign policy, as a backbone of his Central-Eastern European ‘Three Seas’ initiative. According to a poll published in Polish media in mid-June, 60% of Poles support a deployment of additional US troops to Poland. During the meeting, both presidents re-affirmed their commitment to the ‘Three Seas’ initiative to “enhance regional energy, transportation and information connectivity between the Adriatic, Black, and Baltic Seas.” They urged others to invest in the project.
Despite strong expectations, no new projects were announced. Polish commentators hoped that details of at least one of two military initiatives would be revealed during the meeting: one related to the KRUK assault helicopter modernization program (AH-64E and AH-1Z have been offered), the other includes a donation of ex-US C-130H aircraft. Before the meeting it was reported that US Army V Corps HQ is to be transferred from Kentucky to Poland and that the European nation will host 30 USAF F-16s relocated from Germany. Supposedly these are from the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem, though this has yet to be confirmed.
Issues discussed at the White House included cooperation on 5G technologies, on which both countries signed a joint declaration last year. Poland, which has recently purchased F-35s, has also been seeking US assistance in building its first-ever nuclear power plant. During the meeting it was revealed that a technical inter-governmental agreement will shortly be signed, related to selection of a large-scale power plant; selected companies will also be identified, though no timescale has yet been revealed.
From a military perspective, it was confirmed that roughly 1,000 troops from Germany would be relocated to Poland and that the Polish government, according to Trump, “will be paying for this.” Currently, Poland hosts 4,500 US soldiers. President Duda officially called on the US to keep its forces in Europe. He underlined that any deployment of additional US troops in Central-Eastern Europe is endorsed by all countries of the region but should not be carried out at the expense of Germany. Before the White House meeting, Duda consulted with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. He expressed an opinion that while the Eastern Flank is crucial, the most important issue is to preserve and enhance the transatlantic bond and the integrity of NATO. Polish-US defence and security bilateral cooperation should be considered as a part of NATO activities.
Trump once again supported the Polish stand on the highly controversial German-Russian “Nord Stream-2” natural gas pipelines project, which is considered in Central-Eastern Europe as a threat to its energy security and political sovereignty. Under Trump, the US imposed sanctions on companies involved in the project and started to export US natural gas to the region. The US president supported the Baltic Pipe project, which is to connect Norway with Poland, with an expansion of the Świnoujście LNG facilities.
Robert Czulda in Lodz for MON